Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Preaching the Gospel: Words are Just as Important as Actions

My affinity for Duck Dynasty began last July. I watched all three seasons in a month. Twice. Since then, I like to keep tabs on the Robertson family. I google 'em, read up on 'em, youtube 'em, and even sport their gear.

Last week I stumbled across Phil Robertson's I am Second videoI am Second videos feature testimonies of prominent (sometimes not-so-prominent) American figures. I could watch them for hours. Sometimes I do. Prior to watching Phil's I am Second video, I knew a bit about his life before Christ. He'd been wild in his younger years, partying and sleeping around while his wife and kids kept the home fires burning. But I'd never heard how he came to know and give his life to Jesus.

The story goes like this: an acquaintance asked young, wild Phil if he could share the Gospel with him. Phil declined to listen in favor of his partying ways. Later, Phil's wife remembered the acquaintance and begged Phil to sit and listen with him, just to see what he had to say. She was desperate for a change in her husband, and he agreed to sit down with him.

And so he listened to the man talk about Jesus, God in the flesh — Love embodied to show people with bodies what Love looks like, and to assure us that Love, Life and Light can have the last word in our lives.

And he thought, "How have I never heard this before?"

Phil Robertson, born and raised in the Bible Belt south, in an originally Christian nation, had never heard the Gospel.

I was incredulous. How had he never heard it before?

I was reminded of a young man I sat next to on a plane several years ago. He was on his way back to Bible college after visiting his family. As we talked, he revealed he was spiritually conflicted and trying to figure out what he thought of his parents' faith. I was able to share the Gospel with him, from the Eden to the return of Jesus, and was startled by his response,

"I've never heard the Gospel like that before."

In college, I first heard an exhortation that is sometimes attributed to Francis of Asissi's:

"Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words when necessary."

When my peers cited it, they often did so in an attempt to create a dichotomy between actions and words. When it comes to influencing the nations for Christ, then it's your behavior that counts, not your words, they'd say. Preaching with words, in many of their experiences, was empty and hypocritical, and had the power to quickly and easily repel people from Christ. Many of them thought it was better to avoid words altogether.

I see what they're saying. In some ways, they're onto something. Truly effective preaching starts on the inside, not the outside. Jesus said you could tell what's in a person's heart by their fruit. The apostle Paul said our lives are the fragrance of Christ to a dying world. The Spirit of God puts his Light in us, a spotlight on the soul he's remaking. The good work of God starts on the inside and bubbles up, splashing onto people on the outside. Who we are and what we do, both in public and in secret places, becomes genuine and compelling when we open ourselves to the recreative work of the Spirit of God.

I'm thankful for the biblical examples we have of evangelism. After Jesus said, "Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation," the apostle Paul, Peter, Timothy, Barnabas and others obeyed. They preached with their lives, and they preached with their words. Imitating their example can be scary. Preaching with words can make our knees knock and teeth chatter in fear. It can feel like taking a big, neon highlighter to our inadequacies. Surely the goodness and beauty that leak out of our souls will be self-evident? Surely people can connect the dots as soon as they find out we're Christians?

Somehow, in spite of my love of words, I forget that words are powerful. Words can influence a person's trajectory. We see this when words that aren't backed by actions send people running from Christianity. But words backed by actions can be equally as powerful in changing a person's destiny. Words can work to save a soul and grow a Kingdom.

And if Phil Robertson, born and raised in the Bible belt; and my airplane friend, raised and trained in a protestant church, hadn't heard the Gospel by the time they were adults, then the cashier at Trader Joe's down the street, and your pediatrician, and your colleague, and your neighbor, and your great aunt Belinda may not have heard the Gospel either. In fact, they probably haven't

And they need to hear it. Because they'll see the goodness and beauty pouring out of your life. They'll see it even when you're weak and mess up, because the Spirit likes to showcase his glory in our weakness. And they'll want what you have. But without knowledge of the Gospel, they may just settle with trying to live good and beautiful lives, rather than giving their lives to the Creator of all goodness and beauty. This would be a tragedy, like a single woman trying on a wedding dress but never knowing there's a groom waiting for her, loving her, ready to marry her.

One conversation can have a ripple effect, changing
all of eternity
My mom grew up in the Catholic church but never heard the Gospel as a child and young teen. When she was 16, a former drug addict came into the restaurant where she worked and shared the Gospel with her. After that meeting, my mom gave her life to Christ. The man will never know how a conversation he had in passing has changed eternity. My mom and dad raised four kids who love Jesus, and who are learning to share him with other people. For years she's worked at a church in which her faithfulness and giftedness has influenced thousands upon thousands of people. She supports my dad in the pastorate, and shares Christ with the people she meets at the grocery store, community center, and soccer field. Her life has shown me that using words to preach the Gospel changes the world.

This week I'm asking God to open my eyes to opportunities to share Gospel. I'm praying he'll make me courageous. I'm thankful that when he emboldens us to take advantage of opportunities he gives us to share the Gospel, the Spirit of God, from whom all goodness and beauty flow, will give us words to say. And if we stumble and sputter and spew out feeble attempts, he'll make them good and beautiful. All we have to do is share with others the life we enjoy with Jesus.

What stories do you have of people you know coming to Christ as a result of someone's courage to share the Gospel? These stories embolden my faith and I know they'll do the same for others. Let's share!

Image credit:;
© by scj


  1. I don't know about life saving, but I recently had the privilege to be witness to a 6 year old suddenly realizing that there are *3* persons in the person of God. It was a total lightbulb moment for her, and a delight for me to have started the conversation.

    1. I love getting to watch and participate in light bulb moments! I hope in heaven you get to see the ripple effect from that one conversation.

      When I'm talking to Muslims about the God of the Bible, our conversation often returns to the Trinity. Their god is "one," and they believe the Trinity is nonsensical. I like to talk with them about the belief both Christians AND Muslims hold that God is love — he's a deity from whose character love flows.

      Love has to have an object, I say. I love my sister, my Starbucks mug, and the view from my deck. These are the objects of my affection. Without anything to love, I cannot be loving. Then I ask them to think back with me to the dawn of time, back before anything was created, back when there was nothing around to love. Without anything to love, a god like Allah cannot be loving. Allah’s love is not self-sufficient. It’s contingent on the existence of created things. But a triune God can be eternally loving because his love is self-sufficient. The Trinity shares love within itself — between Father, Son and Spirit — forever and ever, and as such, doesn’t need outside things to exist in order to be loving. Only self-sufficient, unstoppable, unending love can save sinners for eternity. The best a temperamental love could do is temporarily save.

      So it seems to me that talk of the Trinity and accompanying aha! moments could definitely have life-saving effects!

      Thanks for sharing, Sharalyn. I love it.


    2. Oh, I love that thought! I hadn't looked at it that way before. Thank you!