by Justin Lonas
Most Christians in America are familiar with the saying attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: "Preach the gospel always; when necessary, use words."
This sentence has become the credo of the "lifestyle evangelism" strategy so prevalent in the church today. The idea behind this, we all understand, is to live righteously in order to provoke those around us to ask why we aren't like everyone else. There's nothing whatsoever wrong with living according to God's word. What's wrong is living rightly as a substitute for sharing the gospel.
Our lives alone do not speak the whole truth. God's Word is far more explicit and specific than our actions alone can ever express.
Words are crucial to the message of Christ. Christ Himself is revealed as "the Word" in John 1. When Jesus came to earth, He did live righteously, but He also taught His followers. He explained His actions; He made perfectly clear His purpose in living among them. God revealed to us the entire Bible, composed of countless words, so that we could know Him more fully. God created us as beings of language-we communicate through words. Without God's revelation in our own language, how would any of us have understood the gospel?
Perhaps the Apostle Paul said it best in Romans 10:14-15: "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.'" We have to tell the good news of Christ; simply acting out a message doesn't do justice to the sender or the recipients.
I'm not saying in the least that true evangelism means forsaking righteousness. The Bible is as clear on how we are to live as it is on how we are to spread the gospel. We are frequently commanded to be holy throughout the New Testament; to set aside Christ as Lord in our hearts and be prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have (1 Pet. 3:15). Service to God is an act of worship that flows out of our love for Him (John 14:15, et. al.). Every righteous act on the part of Christians is also, as a theology professor of mine put it once, a slap in the face to Satan, who believes that he, not God, has power over the actions of men.
The point remains, however, that the Lord has placed us on this earth for a much more active role in spreading the gospel than most of us in America desire. Second Corinthians 5:18-20 says: "All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And He has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: be reconciled to God."
We are Christ's ambassadors. We represent His interests on this earth; we speak His words to our enemies that they may be reconciled to Him. What a calling! The words of Scripture are a powerful tool. They are intended to be handled skillfully by believers to bring about more glory to the Father than we could ever achieve with our own thoughts and actions. Use words!
The purpose of our ministry through Pulpit Helps has always been to equip our readers with a greater understanding of the words of Scripture so that they can adequately fulfill their calling as Christ's ambassadors. As the magazine's new publisher, I commit to continuing to uphold that as our objective for the publication. Because we value our readers, we never want to feed you articles that don't meet this standard. We also trust you to hold us to that. Your comments are heard here. I hope this will be the first of many chances that I have to address you in this column, and I look forward to a long relationship with you through Pulpit Helps. Thanks for reading.
Justin Lonas is Publisher
of Pulpit Helps Magazine.
Pulpit Helps Magazine, a ministry of AMG International, was a monthly publication which ran from 1975-2009. Founded by Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, Pulpit Helps was dedicated to the mission of equipping pastors, Bible teachers, and students of the Word for preaching, teaching, and living God's Truth. Each month, Pulpit Helps provided sermon starters, bulletin inserts, illustrations and quality articles on preaching, counseling, Christian living, and more. The ministry goals of Pulpit Helps continue today in the form of Disciple Magazine online.