The Church has a mandate that is greater than we can ever imagine. Francis of Assisi is often quoted as saying, “Preach the gospel. Use words if necessary.” Francis never said it, and brace yourself, the quote is not biblical.
The idea may not have appealed to Francis i, but for many today (not all), ‘showing and not telling’ is a compelling approach. Whilst it may be said that words are cheap, and actions speak louder than words, it is not an approach that the Bible encourages and overlooks the high value that the prophets, Jesus, and Paul put on preaching. We can’t stop there – it’s not just preaching – the astonishing good news of the gospel deserves (better word than ‘needs’) to be gossiped, sang, shouted, whispered in every way possible – but audibly.
We can’t be the gospel, but we can proclaim it, sing it, speak it, and preach it to all who listen.
People need frequently to hear the words of liberating truth from the lips of the redeemed. We must realise though that we can’t live out the gospel or be the gospel to our neighbours or our city. If you present yourself as the gospel it will be a false one. Your imperfections, weaknesses and fallibility will shine through more than the glorious truth.
A godly life cannot communicate the incarnation, Jesus’ substitution for sinners, or the hope of redemption by grace alone through faith alone. We can’t be the gospel, but we can proclaim it, sing it, speak it, and preach it to all who listen. Jesus encouraged us to let our light so shine that unbelievers will glorify our Father in heaven – but that is not the gospel. (Matthew 5:16) They need to be told – silence is not a strategy to reach the lost.
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? (Rom. 10:13-14)
We need to be convinced about the gospel. Such a conviction enables us to speak boldly, confidently and persuasively. The gospel message is a stirring one that speaks about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, through whom sin is atoned for, sinners are reconciled to God, and the hope of the resurrection awaits all who believe. It is supremely about an event in history that really happened as the initiative of God for a fallen world, a Father’s heart revealed and the saving work of Jesus, it isn’t something we can do, but it is something we must announce.
We do live out its implications, but if we are to make the gospel known, we will do so through words. They don’t need to be wise and persuasive words because God will bring conviction to the heart of the unbeliever, through His Spirit. (1 Cor 2:4) But there needs to be some noise – words!
Proclamation is not the only task God has given us, but it is central. While the process of making disciples involves more than verbal communication the most critical work God has given the church is to “proclaim the excellencies” of our Saviour.
My personal view is that if we are to make disciples of all nations, we must use words – silence is not a strategy to reach the unreached and fulfill the great commission. Let’s encourage each other to deliberately share the gospel with more people than ever before. We have a closing window of opportunity in the West where we have no persecution and enjoy the protection of the law for our safety. We must tell more people about Jesus and not sit back with a strategy of silence hoping that God will sort it all out Himself through the dynamic of revival.
God will help us and give us words to speak
- Francis of Assisi was deeply committed to preaching, sometimes preaching five times a day (back)