The word pastor comes from the same root as "pasture"; and an evangelist is one who proclaims the "evangel" or gospel. The true pastor-evangelist is the spiritual shepherd who leads the flock of God into the green pastures of His Word and beside the still waters of prayer. He feeds them with the bread of life and gives them the water of life so as to build them up in the most holy faith and present them faultless before the throne of God.
The first essential to success in the ministry is a profound conviction of a divine call. Paul declared that Christ put him "into the ministry." If a man is in the ministry without being put there by Christ, he has missed his calling. The apostle said, "For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me ; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" 1 Cor. 9 :16. This will be the attitude of all who are appointed shepherds of the flock. They feel that they cannot escape the responsibility of spiritual leadership.
Gerald Kennedy in his new book, His Word Through Preaching, said, "If any man does not have to preach, let him do something else, or he will have a miserable time of it."—Page 119. And Raymond Calkins makes a similar statement in his book Romance of the Ministry: "No man should ever enter the ministry who can possibly keep out of it. He must be able to say : 'To this end was I born.' "—Page 18. This is good counsel. It is in harmony with Paul's statements that because Christ put him into the ministry he could not escape the responsibility of the divine call, but must of necessity preach the gospel or receive the threatened woe.
Paul related the experience of his divine call to leadership in the palace of Governor Festus during his defense before King Agrippa. He told of his conversion as the result of the heavenly vision when Jesus spoke to him on the road to Damascus:
"And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And He said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet : for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Whereupon, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision." Acts 26:15-19.
TWO IMPORTANT QUESTIONS.—In connection with his conversion experience Paul asked two important questions that every successful minister should ask and have answered. The first is, "Who art Thou, Lord?" The second is, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" A vision of Christ is the necessary prerequisite to successful service for Christ. No person can properly serve Christ unless he knows Him.
FIVE STEPS TO MINISTRY.—The apostle enumerates the five steps that put him into the ministry. ( t) The first was a vision of Christ. It was necessary that he be blinded physically in order that he might see spiritually. One writer has said that "at the gate of Damascus, a vision of the crucified One changed the whole current of his life." (2) The second step was the sense of duty and obligation this vision brought him. He cried out, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" A vision of Christ always demands action for Christ. (3) Then came the divine call. The Lord said to Ananias regarding Saul, "He is a chosen vessel unto Me," and to Saul He said, "I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles." The man who first receives the long-distance call from heaven does not need to be concerned over the local call from the church. Sooner or later the brethren will recognize the heavenly call without the necessity of "pull" or "pressure." (4) The chosen apostle was then given a divine commission as recorded in verses 16 and 18 of Acts 26. This is a summary of the entire gospel message. A minister chosen by God will have a message from God. (5) The last step was the apostle's acceptance of the responsibility. He said, "I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision."
Paul's success was therefore assured. He could not fail in such a divinely appointed mission. Such men will succeed anywhere. They will not be too much concerned over their location, or salary, or budget, or the size of their church, or the number of helpers. To them the need is the all-important consideration. Such ministers always go forth "conquering and to conquer." The gates of hell shall not prevail against them. They are the King's forerunners and messengers, and the eternal destiny of all who hear them depends upon their attitude toward their message.
The apostle's statement of the purpose of his call is in reality the great commission. It is a summary of the whole gospel message. He whose physical eyes had been opened by miraculous power was to go forth to open the eyes of the spiritually blind. The gospel was to do for others what it had done for Paul. He could tell others what great things the Lord had done for him. No person can speak impressively and effectively except on the basis of experience. The world in general is spiritually blind, and the purpose of the gospel is to give vision. In fact, "where there is no vision, the people perish."
Christ came into the world "to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house." Isa. 42:7. The mission of Christ is the mission of every gospel minister. We are to finish the work He so nobly began. It is the business of His ambassadors to give sight to the spiritually blind, and liberty to the slaves of sin and to the captives of Satan.
But vision alone is not enough. The new vision must be followed by a turning "from darkness to light." Prophecy declares that "darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people," and how complete has been the fulfillment. When Jesus, the Light of the world, came into this dark planet, those who "sat in darkness saw great light." The gospel church is pictured in the Apocalypse as a woman "clothed with the sun," and the divine commission is "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee."
A vision of Christ and a turning for counsel to the light of His Word are useless without deliverance from the power of Satan. Captives of Satan cannot be witnesses for Christ. Unless the messenger is himself free, he cannot successfully proclaim liberty to the slaves of sin. The minister must know by personal experience deliverance from the power of darkness and translation into the kingdom of His dear Son. This is also the goal of his preaching to others. It is the very purpose of the gospel. Without this individual deliverance and translation, no person can hope to have part in the final triumph of the people of God and their translation into the kingdom of glory.
The hearers of the gospel must also receive forgiveness of sins in justification, through imputed righteousness. This experience is necessary to take care of the past as completely as if man had never fallen. The Lord looks upon the justified as if they had never sinned, even though their sins remain on record till blotted out in the work of the investigative judgment. Justification must be followed by sanctification, or imparted righteousness. This is equivalent to spiritual growth, and is therefore the work of a lifetime. Righteousness by faith is declared to be "the third angel's message in verity," because it is the very core of the gospel. In fact, without it there is no gospel.
These steps give the recipient of the message an "inheritance among them which are sanctified." They become "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." Because they are saints they will "inherit the earth." Like Paul, the repentant sinner is now ready to give his pledge of obedience. He will follow the heavenly vision. He will say with the apostle, "I am a debtor" to all men. He is to owe no man anything but love, and that debt can never be fully paid till the gospel commission has accomplished its work in all the world.
ACCOUNTABILITY.—Daniel Webster once said, "The most solemn and awful thought to me is Accountability." Above all other men, the minister should feel this heavy weight of accountability to God for the preaching of the message of salvation to every creature. In the New York University there is a Hall of Fame. To date it contains the busts in bronze of seventy-three famous Americans. Under each is an inscription, usually a quotation from the man himself. Beneath the likeness of Robert E. Lee is his immortal saying: "Duty is the sublimest word in the English language."
Our text in Acts sums up the work of the gospel minister. It sets forth the aim and purpose of preaching. In this divine commission is the substance of our task. We have no other reason for being in the world, and it should be the all-absorbing passion of every ambassador for Christ to diligently be about his Father's business in season and out of season, for the king's business requires haste.