The office of Evangelist: There and back again

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TheOldCourse

Puritan Board Sophomore
Is anyone familiar with how a continuationist view of the office of evangelist prevailed in much of the Reformed church? That the office had ceased with the Apostolic period seems to be the unanimous opinion of the earlier Reformed Church with it even being included in the Westminster Standards' BCO:

"The officers which Christ hath appointed for the edification of his church, and the perfecting of the saints, are, some extraordinary, as apostles, evangelists, and prophets, which are ceased. Others ordinary and perpetual, as pastors, teachers, and other church-governors, and deacons."

Such was also defended by Owen, Gill, Henry, and many others. In much of the Reformed world (or at least in America), however, it seems most churches recognize it as a continuing office, although I recognize many here hold the traditional opinion. The OPC (my denomination) even has a section on the evangelist as a current church office in its BCO without any defense. This doesn't seem to be just a recent affair as I had previously assumed, since it has been pointed out to me that James Henley Thornwell in his inaugural discourse at Columbia casually includes it amongst the continuing offices of the church without so much of a hint that it was a contentious issue. I can't imagine that this changed without any debate or consciousness of the shift, is anyone familiar with any historical context or commentary on the issue?
 
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Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
It depends on how you define the word "evangelist". There were extraordinary and foundational evangelists that ceased with the Apostolic period, and there are those with a particular calling that are different to the evangelists of the NT.

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TheOldCourse

Puritan Board Sophomore
It depends on how you define the word "evangelist".

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It certainly does, in that advocates of a continuationist view (at least Reformed ones) divest the office of its unique associations with the apostolic age and usually see it as a something of a pastor/teacher in a unique context. However, they usually do not see, as far as I've read, there being two types of "evangelists"--one apostolic and one continuing and common--and so there is an additional exegetical difference rather than a mere difference of definition. I tend to think this redefinition has important ramifications for our ecclesiology, but the intent of the original post was to have primarily a historical discussion rather than a theological/exegetical one.
 

TheOldCourse

Puritan Board Sophomore
Chris,

You may appreciate the linked content here:

Orthodox Presbyterian Church

;)

Patrick, Thanks for that. I had appreciatively read Gordon's article before but not Dennison's. I was particularly interested in his citation of Lightfoot's description of the Westminster proceedings. Going to spend some time going over the relevant sections as I can find them tonight. Still, even Dennison and Gordon aren't so much speaking about the office of evangelist per se, but the role of evangelism in the church. The divines conceived of the office of evangelist being distinct from pastor, at least in part because they have had themselves the authority to directly appoint elders for a local congregation. The OPC also gives evangelists that responsibility but, of course, sees that as continuing in mission fields today.
 

TheOldCourse

Puritan Board Sophomore
Pastors cannot appoint elders but evangelists can?

My understanding from Lightfoot's notes on the Westminster assembly was that evangelists were seen as having the authority themselves to directly appoint elders to a local (fledgling) congregation (Titus 1:5) instead of merely recommending them for congregational vote and call which was something that distinguished them from the teaching elder. I had thought that the OPC saw them as having a similar (though limited) authority in mission fields, although I'm not seeing a source for that now and it doesn't say as much in the OPC BCO. It was late and I had just combed through a couple hundred pages of Lightfoot's scanned notes from the Assembly and so may have been imagining things.
 
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whirlingmerc

Puritan Board Sophomore
It would be curious to know what they meant by evangelist. Timothy was told to do the work of an evangelist, not clear to me why that would end
I suspect some churches take evangelist today to mean church planter.
Some missions groups differentiate missionary between going into a culture without an existing church or with an existing church
I wonder if the Ephesian passage was along the lines of a person being a missionary to an area without a church yet, which makes it relevant today

Apostles, Prophets I would say ceased. Saying evangelist ceased is really semantics and depends what was meant in the Eph verse - evangelist preceding pastor/elder could mean evangelizing an area without a church yet. There are certainly such areas still.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
According to Scripture, evangelists were ordained persons. Galatians 2 shows the Apostles took evangelists with them when they travelled. Acts 19 shows that Evangelists (something of an assistant to the Apostles) were also sent out by the Apostles to establish Churches just as the Apostles themselves had planted. As you can tell by the Scriptures definition of Evangelist, they are not what you think of today when you hear that term. The office of Evangelist has ceased. If we are talking about spiritual gifts, the Lord no longer gives such a gift. It has ceased along with the Apostles and Prophets.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Interesting, would you mind expanding a bit on that?

Episcopalians maintaining a "divine right" argued the power of Timothy and Titus as evangelists to ordain and set in order is the ordinary function of a diocesan bishop.
 

whirlingmerc

Puritan Board Sophomore
Ephesians 2:20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone

I lean in the direction of saying Ephesians says 'apostles and prophets' are part of the foundation in an earlier chapter
Evangelist not in that list... I think it means evangelist as in going to an area without churches yet or engaging non believers, not a gift that ceased

James Montgomery Boise takes this view
http://www.believerschapeldallas.org/a/Boice/jmb-5_ephesians-study/3_JMB-5_32k.mp3
 
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