Preach the Gospel…

22 10 2008

It goes without saying that the mission of the church as an institution and Christians as individuals is to preach the Gospel fo Jesus Christ.  We are called to this sacred task in Christ’s parting words in Matthew 28:16-20 (a.k.a. The Great Commission).

It goes without saying?  What do you mean without saying?  We are all to comfortable with a Gospel left unspoken.  In the church we talk the language of Gospel, but when asked to get specific struggle to articulate an sort of a specific set of beliefs for fear that they might sound too much like doctrine, and you know how nasty doctrines are.

It is believed that St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the Gospel, if necessary use words.”  What on earth does that mean?  I assume that St. Francis and the well meaning folks so assert this as a positive approach to evangelism intend that we live out our faith before unbelievers and through our kindness and love for God they will see that there is value in our faith.  The challenge is with all this pious activity do we leave time to understand the Gospel well enough to offer a spoken word.  For that matter how can one claim that the Gospel is preached if Christ is not mentioned, and how can Christ be mentioned if no words are spoken. (For an example how just how this concept can go wrong take a look here.)  Especially since it was Paul who stated in Romans 10:14-15 “And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”.

Gordon Lewis puts it this way, “Those who know something analogous to God do not know God.  If God’s essence cannot be known, we do not know of what we speak.  Those who claim to know Him, but cannot assert any propositions about Him, face a serious difficulty.” (Testing Christianity’s Truth Claims)

Now I do not mean to put down or in anyway diminish the good that people do to better the lives of others in the name of Christ.  I just want to clarify that this is not in itself the Gospel.  It is a natural outgrowth of our lives in the shadow of the cross, but not the cross itself.  We will be rewarded for the good we do as Christians (see Matthew 25:31-46), but though this might be a pre-evangelism it is not evangelism.  My concern is that when we make use of phrases like “Preach the Gospel, if necessary use words” that we cheapen the Word and make the Gospel all about what we do.

Are we called to serve our fellow man?  Yes.  Are we called to preach the Gospel to one another. Yes.  Are these related callings? Yes.  They are however not the same calling.  We are called to both, each in its own time and according to its own purpose.

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