HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
Leadership in the Church
An Examination of Offices
The New Testament mentions a wide variety of leaders in the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, bishops, elders and deacons. What are these offices? Are they commanded for the church today? Let’s examine the evidence, starting with the titles given in Ephesians 4:11: “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers.”
Some people use “evangelist” as an administrative rank, but Paul was probably not describing a church-government hierarchy in Ephesians 4:11. Although the apostles had more authority than prophets did, Paul does not use this verse to say that. He does not say that prophets had authority over evangelists, or that evangelists had authority over pastors and teachers. He is not prescribing a hierarchy.
Paul seems to be concerned with order only in 1 Corinthians 12:28, where he numbers the first three gifts: “first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers.” However, we do not have any evidence that prophets exercised any administrative authority over anyone — and the category of the evangelist is not even mentioned in this verse.
In most of Paul’s lists of spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10), he does not seem to be concerned about which gift is most important. Even in verse 28, after the first three gifts are numbered, Paul does not attempt to rank the gifts. Indeed, he argues against that idea, saying that a person’s gift doesn’t make anyone more important than others. Every gift is given for the common good; every person should use his or her gift to serve others. In Ephesians 4:11, Paul is saying that Christ puts all types of leaders in his church for the same reason: to equip the saints for the work of ministry.
What is an evangelist? The New Testament uses the word only three times, which in itself suggests that the word is not a formal title in the church. Philip was called an evangelist (Acts 21:8). That means he did evangelism — he preached the euangelion, the gospel (e.g., Acts 8:5-40). But there is no evidence that he had any administrative authority.
Paul exhorted Timothy to “keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5). Paul was not conferring a formal title on Timothy — nor is there evidence that Timothy ever had a formal title like that. Paul was simply listing things for him to do. “The work of an evangelist” was evangelism — preaching the gospel. A deacon such as Philip could do the work of an evangelist; so could an apostle, such as Paul, or a pastor, such as Timothy. Paul said, “do the work of an evangelist” as a way of exhorting Timothy to do evangelism.
In Ephesians 4:11, Paul says that God gives evangelists to the church. God gives us people who can preach the gospel with extra effectiveness. People gifted at evangelism do not have to be ordained or be given administrative authority. Ordination and administration involve other gifts, which may or may not be present in someone with the gift of evangelizing. If administrative duties are assigned to people who do not have a gift for handling them, then those duties would decrease their ability to use their true gifts.
CONTINUES TOMORROW …