5 Reasons to ‘Speak’ the Gospel
“Why are you doing this?” “Why are you out here on a hot day giving away free bottles of water?” That’s what we were asked by a rather skeptical kid at the skate park one hot summer day. A few friends from church had decided to take water to the kids at the skate park as a way to show them the love of Jesus and to show that we cared about them as well. I watched, a little fascinated and a little horrified, as the young man trying to hand the kid a bottle of water scrambled to find an answer to his question. I stepped over to them and just said, ‘hey man, we’re just trying to show the love of Jesus in a practical way.’ The kid said, ‘ah, church people, cool. Thanks for the water’ and he went back to his skating. The other young man, the one with us, looked relieved as he said to me, ‘Thanks pastor. I just didn’t know what to say. I never expected him to ask.” “No problem” I said, but really, there is a problem.
We had been talking about that famous quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, “Go out everyday and preach the gospel, if necessary, use words.” What an idea! To show the love of Jesus in actions that communicate the Gospel. And you don’t have say anything; evangelism without using words. Unless absolutely necessary that is. The idea in the quote, and in our little groups rush to adopt it, seems to be that words should be a last resort in communicating the love of Jesus, the Gospel. I’m not sure there was ever a time when that would have truly worked. But I’m absolutely sure that it doesn’t work today. Not in our culture. In our culture words are an absolute necessity. Simply doing a ‘good deed’ does not communicate in who’s name that good is being done. We are in a time and culture in which words are absolutely necessary.
Here are five reasons we must use words to communicate the Gospel message:
1. Words are how we communicate; they are relational. Yes, we know that non-verbal cues are highly important. Yet, the primary means of human communication and relational development is through words; words spoken and words written. You can’t have a relationship, you can’t truly communicate without words. Write them, say them, sign them, use them, our words are our first tools to communicate our love and the love of Jesus. After, or while using words, then you should follow up with actions that validate the words.
2. Words allow for clarity. Actions without words can be confusing; granted, not always, but often our actions get misinterpreted. In the story above, it turns out the kid in the skate park had good reasons to skeptical of someone giving out free things in the park, to kids. Think about it. Carefully chosen words bring clarity. Use them.
3. We live in a ‘blunt’ culture. Increasingly we live in an ‘in your face’ culture. Subtlety is becoming a lost concept. We’re blunt. We’re brutally honest. Our culture screams it doesn’t whisper. And we have to learn how to communicate the loving Gospel message in the midst of this culture and it’s sometimes overwhelming volume. Carefully chosen words can do this, not ‘in your face’ attitudes or a screaming street preacher, but carefully chosen words, communicated with a directness that can be culturally understood.
4. When we speak it we get it. And let’s be honest, learning to speak it is when we finally ‘get it.’ Often in the act of putting together a lesson to teach the teacher comes to a deeper understanding of the topic. The same is true for us when we do the work to put the Gospel message into culturally appropriate words. And the more we understand the Gospel the better we’ll be at communicating it.
5. The Gospel is too important to keep quiet. This is the most important message the world has ever received! It’s far too important to keep silent. Those who have been claimed by the life-transforming love of God in Jesus Christ; those who have heard and responded to the Gospel message of Jesus; must shout it from the rooftops! We shouldn’t sit quietly on the sideline. Speak up! Speak the Gospel message! It’s too important to keep quiet!
So this week, today even, try writing out your testimony in a paragraph or two. Then memorize it and be ready to share it when the opportunity comes.
Or maybe, just invite a friend to have coffee and share your stories with one another.
Tell somebody this week that Jesus loves them, begin the conversation, use your words to communicate the Gospel!
Grace and Peace, Rich