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The Evangelist’s Biblical Foundation

Since the time of Charles Finney, the title of evangelist has been applied to itinerant preachers traveling from town to town, exhorting churches and proclaiming the gospel. These men have come to be recognized as specialists in the art of stirring a congregation and calling forth a host of decisions. In the last couple of decades, debate has escalated concerning the Biblical basis for this ministry. It is my opinion the evangelist is a Biblical role that needs to be reexamined to open up the ministry to its fullest capacity.

The evangelist is a role very much alive and necessary to the church today. The evangelist is one appointed by God to meet the practical and spiritual needs of churches. This may include preaching a three day meeting, filling the pulpit for six months, intervening in church conflict, providing assistance during a building program or any other need that a ministry or pastor has. The modern concept of an evangelist as an itinerant preacher traveling from church to church to speak in week long (or less) special meetings is only part of the Biblical concept of the role of the evangelist.

Definition of an evangelist

The evangelist is very definitely a role found in the New Testament. This role is not parachurch, or extra-church, but is one that must function under the guidance and leadership of the local church and pastor. Ephesians 4:11 gives the foundation for defining the evangelist as a legitimate role within the church. Some have tried to define an evangelist as one who specializes in and focuses primarily on the proclamation of the gospel to the unsaved. They do this because the word evangelist comes from the word euanggelistes, which is a bearer of good tidings or a herald of salvation. However, the very usage of the word in this verse argues against the possibility of the evangelist being just a preacher of the salvation message. None of the other roles mentioned are defined solely on the literal definition of their title.

  • The word apostle means messenger, yet the apostles did much more than just travel around repeating the message of Christ. These messengers established churches, performed miracles, set down church guidelines (as in Acts 15) and in general led the new believers into the church age.
  • The definition of prophet is an interpreter of hidden things. Yet we know that the prophet is one who spoke with the unction of God, revealing things that were hidden, foretelling of things to come, giving the inspired Word of God and proclaiming the already given Word.
  • The word pastor is defined as a shepherd, but the task of the pastor is far beyond just herding the church around and feeding it on the weekends. The pastor is an overseer and elder with a long list of requirements and duties revealed in the Word of God.

Why then do we single out the evangelist to be defined merely by the title given? I do not believe that we can Biblically, or logically, define the evangelist just on the literal use of the term. We must then explore the Book and find out who the evangelists were so that we may find out if the evangelist is a ministry for the 21st century.

The New Testament evangelist was one sent out to fill in the gaps in churches between the time of establishment and full maturity or to help bring about resolution in times of great conflict or need. This can be seen in the ministry of those men who I believe functioned as evangelists in the early church.

Phillip the Evangelist

Only one man in the New Testament is called an evangelist: Philip is mentioned as an evangelist in Acts 21:8. We know little about this man, except that he was one of the original deacons in Jerusalem and then was living in Caesarea as an evangelist. He is possibly the Phillip mentioned in Acts 8 who preached the gospel in Samaria, the desert and Azotus. If the Philip of Acts 21 is the Philip of Acts 8, we can conclude he was a servant of the church and a preacher of the gospel. We learn nothing else about the evangelist from Philip, unless one would care to suggest that having 4 virgin daughters who prophesied and providing hospitality to apostolic mission teams is an essential qualification of the evangelist. We are left then with no other information concerning those who were evangelists, so the matter becomes one of careful study to attempt to place certain individuals in ministry categories.

To attempt to define those who were evangelists, we need to consider individuals who had positions of leadership and responsibility the early church but were not apostles. This list of names would include Barnabas, John Mark, Silas, Timothy, Titus, Apollos, Epaphras, Epaphroditus, Archippus and others. Not all of these men would be considered evangelists, but I believe some can be. It is my opinion that Silas, Timothy, Epaphroditus, Epaphras and Titus all served as evangelists. I can give little Biblical support for most of these, aside from simply saying these men seem to me to fit that role. I want us to consider one who can reasonably be shown from the Bible as an evangelist. That one is Titus.

Titus as an evangelist

I believe Titus fits very well in the ministry of an evangelist. This is true for a couple of reasons. First, and least importantly, Ephesians 4:11 seems to give a complete listing of all the roles serving the church at the time of the Ephesian letter. That being the case, where are all the evangelists? Apparently, the evangelist was an accepted and known ministry in the early church that did not need explanation. Those who served in the capacity were very likely known as such.

Secondly, I believe Titus is an evangelist by process of elimination. Titus was not an apostle; he does not meet those qualifications. Titus was not a missionary since missionaries did not exist in the fashion they do today nor is missionary given as a title to any of the men in the Bible. (I do not dispute the Biblical need for and nature of modern missionaries but am simply stating I cannot put New Testament men into modern molds). Titus is not a prophet, having written no books of the Bible and having no recorded prophecies or Divine revelation from him.

Evangelist, not Pastor

Many would argue Titus was the pastor of the church in Crete. However, from what we know from Scripture about Titus’ ministries, that conclusion does not seem warranted. The letter written to Titus when he was at Crete gives to Titus very clear instruction for the establishment of those churches, and yet Titus has no permanent position in Crete. Titus is there to “set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city” (Titus 1:5). Judging by the dates of the letters of Paul and the information of his traveling partners, we can come to some idea of the length of time Titus spent in Crete. Galatians 2 indicates that Titus was a companion of Paul’s as he came into the city of Jerusalem with Barnabas prior to Paul’s third missionary journey. We know that Titus was sent to Corinth in between the first and second Corinthians letters, for Paul tells us this in 2 Corinthians 7, 8 and 12. After that we know very little about Titus until we read the letter written to him in 63 AD.

The letter to Titus tells us that Paul had traveled to Crete, probably between his imprisonments, and had left Titus there to set in order the churches on the island. From all appearances Titus has not been long on the island and has a laundry list of things that must be done to bring those churches to maturity. At the end of the book, Paul asks Titus to come to him in Nicopolis after sending Artemis or Tychicus to replace him. From there the last mention of Titus is found in 2 Timothy, as Paul tells Timothy the condition of their fellow travelers: “Titus is (departed) unto Dalmatia” (2 Timothy 4:10). 2 Timothy was written the year after the book of Titus, which means Titus spent less than two years ministering to the churches in Crete. That does not sound like a pastoral ministry to me, even by modern standards of short term pastorates.

Paul calling Titus to come to him in Nicopolis after his replacements have come does not seem to fit the Pauline perspective of the Pastorate. I can hardly imagine Paul calling a new pastor to leave the church to travel with him. What little the Bible reveals about the duration of pastoral ministry shows a much longer stay than less than two years. In Acts we see James as the elder of the church in Jerusalem for most of the apostolic era. In Acts 20 Paul calls the Ephesian elders to him so he can give them further instruction and send them right back to the ministry in Ephesus. I see nothing in Titus that indicates Titus was the pastor of the church. What is in the letter is Titus being given a specific task to fulfill in those churches before moving to other ministries.

Box 3- Biblical precedentThat having been said, what was Titus then? The only Biblical identifier left is “evangelist.” This would fit nicely with Ephesians 4, for Titus and others were not apostles, they were not prophets, nor were they pastors and teachers. The only reasonable option is that they were evangelists.

In conclusion I must state I do not want to build a dogma around this evidence for evangelism, for I will be the first to admit that this evidence assumes much and can be brought into some degree of question. Therefore, I will simply state that if Titus truly was an evangelist, our understanding of the role of the evangelist should be re evaluated.

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