“But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”2 Timothy 4:5
The Second Epistle of Timothy captures the concluding thoughts of the Apostle Paul, the greatest missionary-theologian of the church. The bone-weary evangelist commits to Timothy, his son in the ministry, a charge more precious than life itself: “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).
The teacher’s primary responsibility is to teach the Bible revelation. That is a self-evident truth in need of little support. Startling, however, is the task singled out by Paul, “…Do the work of an evangelist.” He does not say, “exercise the gift of an evangelist.” As a young preacher of 16 years, having read this text, I shouted at Paul my protest with such vehemence that I think he probably heard me through a time warp of almost 2,000 years! Said I, “But I do not have the gift of the evangelist! I am a teacher. I don’t even own a white suit or a pair of white shoes!” And God’s tough but tender reply through tear-stained, atoning eyes came back firmly, “Do the work of an evangelist!”
There has never been a teacher like Jesus. He taught with authority, with insight, and understanding, and not like the Pharisees. But when he defined His mission, He said, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save those who are lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus, the ultimate instructor of biblical truth, makes it clear that His purpose is the salvation of the lost. No wonder then that a man or woman is successful as a teacher only if he or she is doing the work of an evangelist. And how can that be achieved? Note the following three things.
First, whatever text you are expounding, find the gospel in the text. Are you teaching about New Testament giving? Remember, Christ gave Himself. In the lesson about human forgiveness, Jesus is forever the greatest example. Is the focus of the teacher on patience? Who particularly waits on our souls as the Spirit of God convicts? The gospel is in every text and is manifested in ever fresh ways. Do not miss it.
Second, pray that God will bring the lost. Growing up in a Jewish home in New York City, Harvey Solganick was an agnostic Jewish philosophy professor who was convinced that all Christians had checked their brains to believe what they believed. But the girl with whom he was infatuated would only date him if he came to her Sunday School class at First Baptist Dallas. He reluctantly came to Sunday School and did not have one of our better teachers. He had me! But God even used me, and today Dr. Solganick teaches for the Christ whom He loves. God did that, not I. Pray that the Lord of the harvest will bring them to you.
Finally, do not fail to give the lost an opportunity to come to Christ. C.H. Spurgeon was saved when it had been snowing all night. Only one church was open that Sunday morning. The pastor did not make it, and a layman preached. Only eight people were there to hear the message. But that lay preacher had the gumption to give an invitation to receive Christ. And Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who would become the greatest preacher of modernity, came to Christ.
Teacher, ours is an awesome responsibility. We are charged by our Savior with the task of reaching the lost. We teach the Bible to be certain, but we teach the Book in order to reach the lost. The last thing we need to hear on Saturday night is, “Do the work of an evangelist.” And the first thing accompanying the tune of the mockingbird on Sunday morning should be the admonition, “Do the work of the evangelist.”
Dr. Paige Patterson
First Dallas Sunday School Teacher
Dr. Paige Patterson, an architect of the Conservative Resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention, is a global theological educator with 60 years of ministry experience. Having served as president of three theological institutions and of the Southern Baptist Convention, Patterson brings a lifetime of leadership expertise to his work as a theologian and evangelist. During the past six decades, Patterson has served as a member of many boards and councils, including the International Council for Biblical Inerrancy. A native Texan, Patterson has served as pastor to several churches in the United States, in addition to his international ministry as a preacher and teacher at Bible conferences across the globe. He now resides in the Dallas area and directs the international work of Sandy Creek Foundation.