Monday, June 15, 2009

Evangelists in Scripture

I think the following paragraph can be a useful tool in how we address/discuss/debate the different topics that face the church today.

Thomas Campbell in "The Declaration and Address" noted that we often reach conclusions from biblical data using inferences. In the 13 propositions, Campbell set the principle of deductions and inferences when "fairly inferred or deducted from scripture" may be taught as doctrine. However, he went on to say that these deductions or inferences should not be made a test of fellowship. His reasoning was that even though biblical teachers reached their conclusions using solid hermeneutical principles, there may be some who simply do not see the connection. As a result, the conclusions reached by deduction or inference should not be binding on others beyond their capability to make the connection. (Michael Hines, June 2009, Restoration Herald)

The reason Michael Hines made this comment was an ongoing discussion in the Restoration Herald concerning the Evangelist and the Elder/Pastor in the church.

Michael Pemberton is an Evangelist with White Fields Evangelism and strongly believes that the located minister is in fact the Evangelist in today’s church. In his view the Evangelist is a valid office within the church based on what Paul told Timothy. He sites 2 Timothy 4:1-5 as the work of this office. He sites Ephesians 4:11-12 as evidence of the office itself.

In Pembertons view the office of both elder and evangelist must coexist since in his view each is to appoint and ordain the other. He sees the evangelist as the one who is to rebuke and discipline the sinning elder and the elder the sinning evangelist. No elder is appointed and ordained by elders he says. To Pemberton the command to Timothy to "do the work of an Evangelist" is evidence that Timothy was in fact an Evangelist

Hines on the other hand, says that to draw such deductions and inferences based on only three mentions of the Evangelist in scripture is at best weak and a defense of ones own paid position in the church. The three instances mentioned are Luke’s identification of Philip as an Evangelist in Acts 2:1-8, the admonition by Paul to Timothy to "do the work of an Evangelist in 2 Tim 4:5, and the Gift of God in Eph 4:11. From these three passages it is deduced or inferred that there is an office of Evangelist. Since it is his opinion that there is no other reference in the NT of this title and absolutely no writings in either the second or third century of any such office, we should be careful in drawing such inferences.

While he thinks it can be legitimately inferred that such a role existed in the early church, there may be better explanations of the use of the term. The clearest example we have is Philip (actually called an evangelist) who spread the good news (which the Greek implies) and was what Jesus commanded all the disciples to do in the great commission but never as a located office. Paul he says was simply reminding Timothy that part of his responsibility included what some might call "soul winning" along with setting things in order in the Ephesian church as his representative or delegate. There is no indication that this was to be a located office within the early church. More accurately we may see this functioning as a church planter today.

One would see this church planter as the establisher of new assemblies, appointing the elders and then moving on but in no way as a located minister of salary working along side of or either over or under such elders. Hines concludes with this. "In my view, those who argue for the term Evangelist recognize that the New Testament says nothing specific about the one "man minister leader" in the early church yet want to defend their role as a paid servant". Stranger still, as has been my position, is the lack of any qualifications for said office or any criteria in which to judge this mans ability or competence to hold this office if it exists. Simply saying he should be held to the same standard as the Elder/Pastor is a noble goal but again there is no scriptural support for this either. If a man meets all the qualifications and desires of Eldership, then he is an elder and not an evangelist.

Keeping in mind the first paragraph and not making this a matter of any test for fellowship. I will be curious to see how this plays out over the next few months. What do you think?


Monday, June 8, 2009

Riddle me this.

As the joker often asked Batman, Riddle me this?

The year is 1932. Two men are walking down the street very late one night, and a policeman stops and questions them. Since they are acting suspicious he searches them and finds a pint of whisky on the one and only a few gold coins on the other. The man with the whiskey is quickly arrested and tossed in jail for 18 months.

The year is now 1934. The first man gets out of prison and meets his old friend and once again they go out and are stopped by the same policeman while out very late at night. The first man again has a pint of whisky in his possession and the second man only a few gold coins in his pocket. This time the police arrest the man with the gold coins and the man with the whisky is let go.

What's happening here?

Just reading the account I gave gives little clue as to what happened or was happening. Scripture is often like this. We read something and it seems not to make much sense until we go to extra-biblical history to fill in some blanks. Take the account of the Pilate telling the Jews he had found no guilt in Jesus, but upon hearing "you are not a friend of Caesar", Pilate immediately folds, washes his hands and does as the Jews wanted. Unless we read what Pilate’s standing was at the time with Augustus and Rome we would not know why this was such a powerful statement. Pilate had fallen out of favor due to many bad reports of abuse and killing of Jews and another report would be disastrous to him.

Another example would be why the Pharisees would not go into Pilate’s residence for fear of defiling themselves and not being able to eat the Passover that evening. But hadn’t Jesus eaten the Passover Seder the night before? Could Jesus have been mistaken or was it merely a meal of convenience? But since Gods command was to eat it on Nisan 14 according to the ordinance wouldn’t this have been disobedience and eliminated Jesus as a sinless lamb to go to the cross? Well since the Jews followed a Lunar year and we a Solar we can see some interesting developments. We know we have to add one day every four years (leap year) to make up the accuracy of our calendar. The Lunar year was far more fragile and sometimes up to 5 days had to be added periodically to keep it accurate. There was also a division between the cities in the northern regions and southern regions as to what day Nisan 14 fell during certain years. Jesus being from the North and most Pharisees adhering to the Southern reckoning (Judea) we then see this discrepancy.

Now back to the riddle above. In 1932 prohibition was still in effect and so having a pint of whisky in ones possession was against the law. However in 1934, prohibition was repealed but Franklin D Roosevelt had signed a law making it illegal for United States citizens to possess gold. Knowing the history, culture and traditions of a given time and people makes our understanding all that much clearer.


Friday, June 5, 2009

Our New Electronic Age

One of my fellow Elders just e mailed me a link to a story about a church that now allows twittering during service. Really, Twittering? You can read it yourselves at

This got me thinking that perhaps we have gone too far. I can agree with using all the tools available to us but this may be over the top. As the Pastor said its not like I can say double click here to be saved or click here to have communion sent to your desk top, etc.

This same Elder and I got to thinking, what kind of message we could expect during a sermon? "Didn’t you preach on this last year"? "Isn’t it a bit too cold or too warm in here"? I used to preach in a bi-racial church where the "Amen’s" and "Praise the Lords" were a sense of encouragement and urged me on in the word. I dare say there is no encouragement in something twittered behind me that I can not see or hear.

On one of the forums I participate on, a newly hired pastor let us know that he was an assistant pastor. The senior pastor had just left some months back (under good conditions) and he was made interim senior pastor. After a couple of months the congregation voted to remove the "interim" from his title. He got resounding congratulations and prayers of encouragement. One Pastor however made a statement that got to me. "It’s nice to see a congregation test driving a minister before they hire him". Test driving ministers? That got me to thinking again. By now you probably see I think way too much about such things.

What if we instituted a system like "Pastor fax" for ministers we hire? Like Car Fax where all the previous repairs and accidents are listed so the buyer has an informed history before buying. Perhaps his doctrinal stand was a bit skewed and had to go into an authorized dealership for realignment or had some major body work done. Maybe we could classify pastors as we do cars? Those who graduated in the 60's’ rather then senior ministers, could be called muscle ministers. Those older ministers could be called classics. The Gen X ministers could be called hybrids and those smaller new church plants who can’t afford a minister yet and have sermons pod cast into the assembly can be the new electric ministers? This may catch on.

Don’t get me wrong I love the new tools available to us in ministry but we should be careful not to remove the human factor. Community and personal relationships are very important. Right before each time I preach I ask the assembly to go and greet any visitors or to greet someone they had not spoken to that day yet. Watching this interaction is a blessing for me in the preparation to speak Gods word. I cannot see the same blessing if they all remained in their seats twittering hello’s to each other.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Keep it Simple

As a coin collector I try to keep informed with what the US Mint is doing with the coins so many of us take for granted in our pockets. My mind immediately goes to thoughts of who once held that coin before me. Especially the really older ones. Coins from the Roman and Greek periods can still be gotten inexpensively and who knows who once held them. But back to our own Mint. Edmund Moy, the US Mint director has said there are discussions going on concerning a "Strategic Coin Reserve" to hold coins should there be a disruption of production at either of the US minting facilities, that would disrupt the production of coinage for commerce. That sounds pretty ominous doesn’t it? More like a home security issue. But there is not now or will there be in the near future any coin shortage. What is clear is that with these hard economic times, many people are emptying those coin jars and cans they toss their pennies and nickels into at the end of each day. As a result the banks are not ordering new coins from the Federal Reserve (those responsible for the distribution of coinage) and so the Reserve is not ordering from the Mint. What has become clear is that this is a ploy to keep Mint workers on the payroll during lean times and this got me to thinking.

In the church we have a lot of programs that either do not work, are not being worked or are simply on the books because some old time leaders put them there years ago. Sadly we refuse to let them go or discontinue them from a sense of tradition or habit. Some are such sacred cows that for any pastor to suggest ending such programs would probably cost him his job.
A recent article in the Christian Standard was geared toward "Simple Church". that is not to say Easy Church but just a more simple way of doing what we are called to do. One pastor I spoke to still has a Sunday Evening service where only he and his wife and another couple attend. While I am sure these few are being blessed is this the best way to continue with time and resources being stretched so thin? Some churches do VBS at a financial loss just because its always been done. Perhaps a rethinking of what we want to accomplish and how we are to get there is in order. This may mean cutting some sacred cows and trimming some fat but in the end it may produce a more efficient church ministry or outreach.

A church of less then 100 people with 24 different ministries on the books has to be stretched to their limit. While that same church ministering with less programs and more involvement in the ones they decide on would be more beneficial. I think what has elevated these sacred cows is the idea that we have to be relevant to each and every person we encounter and I think we all know that is impossible. Just as we do not all have the same Spiritual gifts, I do not think every assembly has to be relevant to every person. As someone once said, "Keep the main thing, the main thing". We as local assemblies are to be about seeking and saving the lost. We cannot do it all, nor should we even try. One plants and another waters and the Holy Spirit brings forth the harvest. Focus on what you "can" do and do it well. Keep it simple but keep it productive, rather then keeping it complicated and nothing being done of any significance to further the kingdom.