In a previous article entitled "The Body of Christ Has Two Hands" (End Note A), we discussed the tendency of members of the church to react to each other rather than to interact. Now let's look at a specific example of this tendency in the case of "evangelists" and "teachers." The same could be done with "prophets" and "pastors" as well as "administrators" and "healers" (types of "ministers" mentioned by Paul in one place or another in Romans 12:4-8, I Corinthians 12:27, 28, and Ephesians 4:11).
Although the various kinds of ministers enumerated by Paul in the passages cited are intended by God to complement and supplement each other "for building up the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12) they have not always done that. To partly understand why this has been so in the case of evangelists and teachers, I would like to discuss this question under the heading of "The Farmer and the Baker."
As everyone knows, farmers and bakers are people who make different uses of wheat. The farmer uses wheat as seed to be planted in the ground to produce more wheat. The baker grinds wheat into flour and bakes it into bread for feeding hungry people. These are complementary functions and do not usually create tensions between farmers and bakers. But when we turn to their spiritual counterparts in the church we too often find it to be otherwise.
The spiritual counterparts of farmers and bakers in the church are evangelists and teachers. Evangelists take the word of God (which is symbolized by wheat seed in the parables of the sower and the tares in Matthew 13) and sow it in all kinds of "soil" (hearts) to win souls to Christ. Teachers use the word of God not for sowing, but as bread for hungry souls. Thus is fulfilled Jesus' dual commission to his disciples to (1) preach the gospel to make converts and to (2) teach those converts all that Jesus commanded them to be and do (Matthew 28:19-20). These dual functions are complementary and should be done in a spirit of mutual good will by evangelists and teachers.
Unfortunately, however, evangelists and teachers too often tend to dislike and work against each other. Their attitudes toward each other are manifested by such comments as "evangelists are mass oriented and are shallow and superficial," while "teachers are stuck up and tend to talk over people's heads." Each of these criticisms is, of course, partly justified by the conduct of some of those against whom they are made. But there is more to it than that. It is not sufficiently understood that in the very nature of the case most evangelism must be extremely simple while most teaching must deal with complex matters. Evangelistic preaching deals mainly with what is sometimes called "first principles" that is, with arousing faith in men and women which leads them to repent of their sins and to be baptized into Christ. Teaching is designed to take converts on to maturity so that they will advance from simple "milk drinkers" to "meat eaters" (Hebrew 5:11-14).
It is usually when someone in the church begins to urge "milk drinkers" to "go on to maturity" (Hebrews 6:1) that reaction occurs. Again, part of this reaction can be explained by the "reactionary" attitude with which some teachers approach milk drinkers. This reactionary attitude on the part of some teachers, however, can sometimes be explained by the reactionary spirit which they encounter here and there. And so a vicious cycle gets started which is hard to break. Let's look at this situation, then, to see if better understanding can be achieved between evangelists and teachers as well as between the multitudes of people "lined up" behind them.
One of the most common complaints lodged against teachers is that they are "sterile" that is, they don't produce converts. And one of the commonest complaints against evangelists is that their overly elementary preaching fails to nourish some members of the church who are starving for solid food. But let's pause a moment to think about these complaints objectively. When have we ever heard of anyone complaining that loaves of bread failed to sprout into wheat plants? Or when have we heard of anyone complaining that raw wheat doesn't make very good eating? The reason we don't hear such absurd complaints is because no one in his right mind regards a loaf of bread as intended for anything other than to be eaten. Likewise, no one expects raw wheat to be used "as is" for food. And just as surely, we all know that as soon as wheat is ground into flour it can't be used as seed to be planted in the ground for growing new wheat plants.
Therefore, until we can all learn that the word of God is to be seen as both raw wheat (seed) to be planted and as bread (food) to be eaten (John 6: 32-35), we will never be able to appreciate the division of labor that exists between evangelists and teachers. Evangelists "rightly handle the word of truth" (II Timothy 2:15) when they treat it as seed to be planted into good and honest hearts to bring about their conversion to Christ. If evangelists were to "analyze" the word of God the way teachers must do they would "kill" its usefulness as "seed." But teachers must "grind" (i.e., analyze) the wheat into "flour" so that it may provide nourishment to famished souls.
Teachers and evangelists, therefore, are going to have to quit reacting to each other and learn to "pull together" as members of the same team. Neither of their ministries can be neglected by the church. For whenever evangelism is emphasized to the neglect of teaching, the church may gain numerous converts but will fail to hold them. And whenever teaching is emphasized to the neglect of evangelism, the church will eventually run out of anyone to teach. Thus, the church must learn to love and appreciate both its evangelists and its teachers and to encourage and support both.
Harry Robert Fox
For more information, contact the author of this article:
Harry R. Fox, Jr.
276 N. El Camino Real, #60, Oceanside, CA 92058 (Snail Mail)
End Note A: "The Body of Christ Has Two Hands"
The Glory Road
Edited and uploaded to the web
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on Dec. 12, 2009.