Some days I feel like my writing is not well-received by those around me. Some days I feel like a fish out of water, especially when I’m writing about sin or the consequences of sin, and what I think the church (we, us, and me), ought to do about it. Sometimes, it’s a chore to communicate effectively what I’m experiencing, and sometimes I get the feeling others don’t want to hear it.
My writing is decidedly personal, for sure, but I hope others also know it is heartfelt. I worry for the Church sometimes, me included, that we are missing some of the points God is trying to make in our world today. If the Bible can be believed, and for the record I think it can, then a time of great deception is coming upon us in the future. During this time, men’s hearts will turn cold toward the gospel and one another. We won’t listen to sound doctrine, or hear about our sins. We will be awash in a sea of dissipation that we, ourselves, have fostered and encouraged to grow beyond the point that we can rein it in again. I try to stand as a voice of sober understanding against that tide. I’m not entirely sure I’m doing a bang up job, but I try.
Lately, an emphasis toward evangelism that been swirling around my faith community. We have been told to preach the word and get people saved. Yet, at the same time, I hear this popular opinion floated through the kingdom: “Preach the gospel and if necessary, use words.”
What?! Saying that to a writer is akin to preaching heresy. By inferring that writing is somehow unnecessary and that living out the gospel is more important than telling others about it through verbal speech or the written word, I think Christians are missing the imperative we were given by our Savior when he left us to care for the people of this world and continue His work of reconciling men to their Maker. Today, I read a good word, aptly spoken (written), by Ed Stetzer, on the Christianity Today site. The article by Ed speaks to this imperative to preach the Word of God boldly. Again, for me, that translate: write. I wanted to share the article with you, because I think it’s important.
Ed Stetzer wrote:
“The gospel is not habit, but history. The gospel is the declaration of something that actually happened. And since the gospel is the saving work of Jesus, it isn’t something we can do, but it is something we must announce. We do live out its implications, but if we are to make the gospel known, we will do so through words.
It appears that the emphasis on proclamation is waning even in many churches that identify themselves as evangelical. Yet proclamation is the central task of the church. No, it is not the only task God has given us, but it is central. While the process of making disciples involves more than verbal communication, and obviously the life of a disciple is proved counterfeit when it amounts to words alone, the most critical work God has given the church is to “proclaim the excellencies” of our Savior.
A godly life should serve as a witness for the message we proclaim. But without words, what can our actions point to but ourselves? A godly life cannot communicate the incarnation, Jesus’ substitution for sinners, or the hope of redemption by grace alone through faith alone. We can’t be good news, but we can herald it, sing it, speak it, and preach it to all who listen.
In fact, verbal communication of the gospel is the only means by which people are brought into a right relationship with God. The Apostle Paul made this point to the church in Rome when he said:
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 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? Romans 10: 13-14”
One caveat I would add to what Ed says is the understanding I have that communication of God’s truth is not tied to any one mode of transmission. I think we can be an example of godliness by living a godly life, without saying a word. I’ve seen it happen. However, once our neighbor, sibling, co-worker, or child sees that we live a different life and they begin to wonder why it is different, they are going to ask us about the difference. Being attracted by what we are offering, they will want what we have. When they come to us to inquire about why we are different, we need to have a clear and confident understanding of the gospel to share with them. Only in meeting Jesus face to face and taking advantage of his offer of redemption will things truly change for them. They need to hear about Jesus and be introduced to his written Word, a word that is able to guide and direct all their tomorrows, with or without us in the picture. Knowledge is power, we know this, and the most powerful power in the world is the knowledge that comes from hearing, learning, and practicing the principles that are outlined in God’s Word and His Gospel.