The gospel is for everyone, which means the summons to be a pastor doesn’t stop with the saved. So if you’re called to preach the gospel, you’re called to interact with the people who don’t have it. That’s the deal. A call to ministry is a call to labor among the lost.
In the last the chapter of his final epistle, Paul urges Timothy, “Do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). Paul is conveying the terms of effective pastoral ministry for Timothy and all who follow. Tucked between the calls to preach, to be sound in doctrine, and to fulfill his ministry lies this unavoidable command. A call to ministry escorts the man beyond the comfortable confines of the church community. It’s a call to gospel work in the world.
Pastor Mark Dever, who models this pastor/evangelist burden as well as any pastor alive, lays it out clearly:
I generally know, when someone goes into the ministry because they like to work only with Christians and to do church things, that this person probably isn’t called. The person who is usually best is the person who is quite good in a non-Christian work environment but who is willing, for the sake of the kingdom, to be called back “behind the lines” as it were, to spend his life supplying those who are on the front line of ministry. As a pastor, I am in a postition that is both frustrating and privileged. It is frustrating in that I really enjoy opportunities to spend time with non-Christian friends, relatives, and neighbors. Because I am a pastor, I have to work intentionally to create such opportunities. But my position is also a privileged one, in that I get to meet at least weekly with a few hundred people and work to equip them to share the Gospel with their friends and family during the week ahead. Being a minister of the Word is a calling that has its price in personal evangelistic opportunities but that also affords great opportunities to encourage others.
Paul captures all of that in six words: do the work of an evangelist.
Yes, prayer for the lost is important. Every pastor should pray for the lost. But that’s not what Paul commands in the passage above. The pastor is called to do the work of an evangelist. Strategizing on how the church can be more evangelistic is essential as well, but that’s not what this is talking about. It’s not about advising or lecturing or reading about it. It’s simpler than that. Just do it.
I have to admit, I’m more comfortable “doing” other pastoral stuff. To me, almost anything’s easier than doing evangelism. Visiting is easier, counseling is easier, leadership is easier, doing the abstinence talk to teens is easier. When it comes to doing evangelism, it’s amazing how the unholy trinity – the world, the flesh, and the Devil – converge to keep me on the couch. But notice, it doesn’t say, “feel the work of an evangelist,” or, “ponder the work of an evangelist,” or, “affirm” or “encourage”; and certainly not “avoid the work of an evangelist.” No, it’s definitely “do.”
Doing involves going. Doing the work of evangelism puts pastors in motions. It couples the pastor to the Great Commission by pushing him out of the church and into circulation. God sent his Son to us. God sends pastors into the world. If you don’t want to reach people with the gospel, you’re probably not called to be a pastor. Pastors do the work of evangelism.