“Use your words.”
All of us as parents (with children older than 2 or 3) know the phrase well. Small children just learning to talk sometimes get frustrated or excited or whatever and they use grunts, groans, screams, whimpers or hand motions to try to tell us something.
It’s at these times we use that classic parenting phrase, “Use your words.” As parents who love our children we want to help move them from immaturity to maturity, and part of that process is getting them to articulate what they are feeling or thinking. To truly grow, kids must learn how to use their words in the communication process.
What’s true in parenting is also true in evangelism. If we really want to mature in our outreach effectiveness, we must use our words.
A few days ago I had a pretty awkward conversation with a woman in the fellowship hall of a church. She told me that she never really articulated the Gospel with her neighbors but simply let them see Christ in her. She had no intention and felt no obligation to try to share the Gospel message with them verbally. I explained to her that evangelism requires words.
In the Greek the word evangelize comes from the word euaggelízo. It simply means to verbally declare good news. Even the dictionary defines evangelism as “the spreading of the Christian gospel by public preaching or personal witness.”
Of course we want to live the message. And, yes, we want to build loving, relational bridges with those around us. We must let our little lights shine with the way that we live.
But without words we are not sharing the message that can save them from a hopeless life and Christless eternity. As Romans 10:14 reminds us, “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?“
Over the years I’ve heard plenty of excuses as to why someone doesn’t verbally declare the Gospel to someone. I’ve heard things that range from “Post-moderns don’t respond to propositional assertions” or “That’s not my style” or “If I really live it then, at some point, they will ask me what I believe” or whatever.
But beyond all the excuses lurks the real reason for their Gospel silence…fear and shame.
The fear of rejection, of losing friends, keeps them silent. As a result they’re not willing to pay the price of following Jesus by risking their relationships by bringing the Gospel up. Down deep inside they’re ashamed to rock the relational boat by sharing the very exclusive message of Jesus to their inclusive peers. They don’t want to bring discomfort to their peers because that may bring discomfort to them. It’s like having a syringe full of the cure to cancer but refusing to use it on a friend with cancer because you’re afraid of hurting them with the needle.
Too many Christians hide behind evangelistic philosophies that fall short of the New Testament norm because they’re afraid of the friction, the frustration and the potential fallout of a Gospel conversation. But in Mark 8:38 Jesus made it crystal clear to his disciples that, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Don’t be ashamed of Jesus. Don’t be ashamed of his words. Communicate these words with a humble heart and a listening ear, but communicate them…with your life AND with your lips.
Use your words.
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