When would it not be necessary to use words in sharing the gospel? How is it possible to share the gospel without using words? I guess if you paint several pictures and display them together you could share the gospel without using words. Maybe if you’re pantomiming and your audience already has an intimate knowledge of the key themes of the gospel, that might be another time you could share the gospel without words. But that’s about it.
The old cliché, “preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words”, is attributed to st. Francis of Assisi (but here’s an Article that says he never even said that). This saying has been used by lots and lots of American pastors to encourage their congregations to love their neighbors like Jesus. That’s a great sentiment and all of us Christians are indeed called to love our neighbors as ourselves.
For us, to live is Christ! Yes we have to love our neighbors as ourselves, yes we are called to live at peace with all men as far as it depends on us, yes we are called to turn the other cheek, but these are all concerned with us living as Christ. Performing acts of service and loving our neighbors is not the same and sharing the gospel with them. We are called to share the gospel with every creature and the idea that we can share the gospel by just being nice to people is really dumb. So this expression is trash. It’s just garbage.
We are called to share the gospel with words, not interpretive dance or anything else. We are to preach the gospel; preachers use words to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. Think about it, if a pastor gets on stage this Sunday morning and acts out a skit where he picks up a $20 bill and gives it back to the person who dropped it and then gets off stage and the band plays a Hillsong tune with no words, would anyone who hadn’t heard the gospel before have any clue how they can be made right with God?
The gospel is news and news is announced, it’s told…using words…
I remember a couple years ago when this really hit me. I was listening to a Voddie Bauchem sermon jam on YouTube and he destroyed the idea of “just living out the gospel” or “sharing the gospel without using words”. Give ‘er a Listen.
At this point, you might be saying “Park, why so harsh?”. Well, if I’m coming off as overly harsh it’s because this is a gospel issue. Take a look at Romans 10:13, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” What an awesome verse! That is the sole hope for humanity. Every person that calls on the name of the Lord will be saved! Buuut right after this spectacular verse, Paul tells us how someone comes to the point of calling on the name of the Lord. So let’s give some more context,
But what does [Duet. 30:14] say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believers in him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘how beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:8-17)
So why am I making a big fuss? Because faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. How can someone put their faith in Jesus if they’ve never heard the gospel? As we preach the word of Christ, God’s sheep hear His voice and respond by calling on the name of Jesus through faith. We gotta use words if we are going to be preaching the gospel. The gospel proclamation is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes! Don’t be afraid to speak truth in love, it’s the only hope for your neighbor.
Preach the gospel at all times, and it’s ALWAYS necessary to use words.