Living and sharing the gospel
One of the most famous Christian misquotes is attributed to Francis of Assisi. In some variation it sounds like this: “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”
At face value, this seems to make sense. We are to be lights in a darkened world—and lights are basically silent. We are to show ourselves to be a model of good works (Titus 2:7). We are to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1). We are to love as Jesus loved (John 13:34). And we are to be humble, not domineering, setting a right example, etc. While these are all good things, they don’t justify the quote. Let me suggest three major problem with this quote.
- Francis of Assisi didn’t say this.
- Francis of Assisi wouldn’t have said this because it is contrary to what he taught and practiced.
- The quote is contrary to many scriptures in the Bible.
I’m ashamed to admit I’ve used this quote on more than one occasion. The quote served to justify my own reluctance to share my faith, both inside and outside the Christian community. My reasoning was as follows: For those who are believers, I just needed to love people. Living the gospel was simply being present, being positive among fellow believers and serving. For those who are not yet believers, the idea was that if I live out my faith by loving people, and those people notice there is something different about me, maybe they will ask what is different and then I can tell them about Jesus. Just typing these words make me cringe about the arrogance, the wrong focus, and the misinterpretation of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
In GCI, we are focusing our congregations on the three venues of love (outreach), hope (inspiring worship services) and faith (discipleship). In the last six issues of Equipper, we’ve given overviews of the love venue and the hope venue. This month we begin to address the faith venue. In the faith venue we want to focus on intentional discipleship, small groups and missionary activities. Discipleship is the process of growing closer to Christ and more like Christ, and into deeper Christian community with other believers. The concept behind the faith venue is to create spaces where disciple-making and spiritual growth can occur and be nurtured.
So let’s go back to the erroneous quote. It’s not enough to just demonstrate the gospel with our actions—though this is vital—we also need to use words. Discipleship includes both—living AND sharing the gospel. By living out what we believe, we can inspire others to see what it looks like to live in participation with Christ. By verbally sharing with each other, we learn from each other. I learn from you and you learn from me, and together our faith is strengthened. This is why being in a small group is so beneficial. Small groups not only offer an atmosphere for learning together, they also provide a safe environment for a small group of people who want to become more Christlike to pray together and to openly discuss our faith experiences. And in doing so, the members of the group experience a deeper sense of what it means to live in Christian community.
In this issue of Equipper, we address a few topics related to the Faith venue. Tim Sitterley and I look at both sides of living and sharing the gospel. Tim addresses the importance of living our faith in his article, “Faces of Hope,” and I address Peter’s admonition to always be ready to give an answer. In addition, Bill Hall has written an article about being Jesus to others, titled, “What About Evangelism?” My prayer is we never stop learning to preach the gospel in every aspect of our lives, using words and action.
Still learning how to live and preach,