This next Sunday, April 30th, we have the tremendous honor of commissioning our elder Mason Goodknight as a local full-time Evangelist. For most of you reading this, you’ve probably never been a part of a church or even heard of a church that has a full-time evangelist. I know that has been my experience, although I always wondered why this is the case. Shortly after I was saved and set on fire for the Lord, I started evangelizing and sensed a “call” from God to serve Him in the ministry. But at that time, before my pastoral gifting had developed, I assumed it would be as a church evangelist or “Pastor of Evangelism.” I had read in Ephesians 4:11 that God gave the church “Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry” and so I assumed that churches would have both pastors and evangelists for equipping the saints. And equipping the saints is what I was passionate about doing. I didn’t want to be a lone ranger evangelist with no church home or ministry to the saints. It seemed clear to me from the beginning that God’s design was always to have men serve in the office of evangelist through local churches. So it was a great surprise to me to realize that almost no churches recognized the office anymore and hadn’t for a long time.
Regarding this glaring oversight in the modern church world we must ask the question: is the Word of God sufficient and has He prescribed exactly what we need for the church age? We know that both Apostles and prophets were essential for the “foundation of the church” (Eph 2:20) and are no longer in operation after the first century. That means that the office of pastor and evangelist are the two primary leadership offices that remained for the upbuilding of the body and advancement of the kingdom until Christ returns. You may ask where the office of elder fits into Ephesians 4:11. By looking at all the pertinent Scriptures side by side, you discover that elders and overseers are the same office that describe the character and authority of those men Christ calls to lead His church. And I believe you will also discover that the office of elder consists of those who are pastor-teachers and evangelists depending on gifting and calling (like subcategories of elder that complement each other to properly equip the church). In fact, understanding this makes sense why we always see a plurality of elders leading local churches in the New Testament, since churches need both pastor-teachers and evangelists to be thoroughly equipped for ministry.
Looking around at the state of the world and our nation today, with the rampant humanism and anti-Christ agenda of Satan being celebrated in the public square, it is important that we consider how it is we got here. And while many explanations have been posited, the Scriptures are clear that we are in the condition we are as a nation because the church of Christ has failed to proclaim God’s law and gospel in the public square. We have retreated to our church buildings and homes and we have forsaken biblical evangelism for non-confrontative friendships and pragmatic methods for getting decisions. A big part of the problem is that the church has treated the pastor as the only relevant office for today. Without a bold gospel-heralding church evangelist in the vein of Paul and Bunyan and Whitefield, who will lead and train the saints to take their faith into the public square, the result will be an impotent witness, and our culture is a reflection of it. That is why this is a not only a big day for our church, but it is an important day for Christianity at large, a day when churches start to restore the forgotten office of evangelist and become active once again in the public proclamation of God’s Word.
Why make this office a staff position? Why not have an evangelist who is also a tent-maker by trade? That is certainly an option that the Apostle Paul at times demonstrated, but when the church can afford it, the Apostle also made it clear that they have a moral obligation to show “double honor” with financial remuneration. 1 Timothy 5:17–18 “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:11 “If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?” And then in verse 14 “Those who preach the gospel should get their living from the gospel.” So the Bible makes a strong and explicit case for financially supporting those who “labor in preaching” and who “preach the gospel” full time. And this work is far more biblical and necessary than a plethora of other staff positions that are often filled in today’s churches. We can see why Jesus would prioritize this work so highly, since what can be more important and urgent than spreading the gospel to as many souls as possible? We believe it is injurious to the advancement of the kingdom to have those whom He has called to preach (Rom 10:15) tied up in other vocational pursuits, instead of giving themselves full-time for the good of the church and the winning of lost souls. And since there is an urgency with the “form of this present world passing away” (1 Jn 2:17), the more time and investment we can make into spreading the gospel far and wide, the more glory to God and good to our fellow man. So we are excited that God has called such a man to this office at Wellspring and thankful that God has graciously provided the means for Wellspring to support him in the wake of his unjust firing from the Sheriff’s Department. All glory to God!