Thursday, March 11, 2010
“Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.”
St. Francis of Assisi is given credit for this famous quote (although that exact phrasing does not appear in any of his writings), and a lot of people would think that this is a great philosophy. His actual quote was that everyone should “preach by their deeds.”
Preaching with our deeds is not just a strategy, it is a necessity. We are commanded all through the Scriptures to let our light shine and be a peculiar people. People should be able to look at our lives and see that we are Christians. They should see the love of Christ readily on display, and thus feel compelled to live their lives in the same way. The sermon that we should preach with our lives is a sermon of love, joy, peace, patience, self-control, forgiveness, conviction, etc.
But this idea that has emerged that says we should ONLY preach with our deeds is a heresy straight from the devil himself. Think about it: who is the one that does not want you to tell people about Jesus—God or Satan?
Believers these days are acting as if we are being overly intrusive by asking people if they believe in Jesus. You would think we were working for the Census Bureau the way we have been criticized for asking people about Jesus.
The new trend is to “have a conversation” with people. If the other person brings up religion, maybe we can insert some harmless little pithy Christian statement in there (“God knows our hearts.”). If they don’t bring up religion, then we will mind our own business as to not “force our beliefs” on them. This mindset is OK to postmodern people because they “got a conversation started.” I have tried to understand this way of thinking, but I just don’t see the merit. If these people die, that conversation will not save their souls.
I love the quote from William Booth of the Salvation Army. He said that if Christians could spend just three seconds in hell, then they would have no problem sharing their faith with anyone. Let’s stop with this conversation nonsense and realize that people all around us are headed for a literal, eternal hell
Lost people know what we believe (that they will go to hell if they don’t change), and that we are supposed to love them. For those of us who are so worried about looking like an evangelical or fundamentalist that we never tell them about Jesus, we are actually selling them short. If we don’t tell them about Jesus, they will know we aren’t showing them love and that we are just hypocrites. If we do tell them about Jesus, even if they reject the message, they will see that we are sincere in our belief and our love. This plants a seed that may be cultivated over time; the “conversation” only highlights the fact that we don’t actually love them enough to tell them about their sin, separation from God, and salvation.
We should be preaching with words everywhere we go. "Conversations" should come after we have initiated the subject of Jesus.
Maybe a better quote would be this:
Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, have a conversation.