Why do we need to speak words when our deeds share the message anyway? Or at least they should be.
Dave, would you like to speak to us about this?
Well, I think words are important.
And I think God thinks words are important.
We worship a God that spoke the universe into being.
There's something very, very powerful about the communicated words of one being to another.
And God has invested in us this message of the gospel to share with others for their salvation and for the benefit of everybody in society.
And I think it takes boldness, I think it takes courage to share these words and it's also got to be backed up with a lifestyle.
We talked last week about the gospel being a proclamation and also a way of living that proclamation out.
Now the walk and the talk have got to match up, obviously.
But what happens when we just walk and we don't talk?
When does silence become denial?
I think we've heard this statement by Francis Assisi often, that, you know, "preach the gospel and if necessary use words".
Well that might have been okay for Francis Assisi, a monk who was talking to squirrels.
But it's not gonna help people come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and have their lives, their communities, and their nations transformed by the kingdom of God.
So I do think we need to open our mouths and declare it.
Tim Keller in his wonderful book 'Generous Justice' makes the point that lots of other people can do practical things.
And I'm so glad that Christians build hospitals, run schools, feed the hungry, clothe people.
We've been doing this for 2000 years and we'll continue for another 2000 unless the Lord comes back sooner.
It's wonderful and we need to do more of it.
But our distinctive, our USP, the thing that we can do that nobody else can do, is introduce people to Jesus and we can't ever forget that.
C.S. Lewis said, "A Christian is either a missionary or an imposter."
And that kind of nails it for me.
I guess the problem comes is in, see how many cliche phrases we can get in to this session, is when we talk the talk but don't walk the walk.
I guess that's what a lot of people may enjoy pointing a finger at Christians for their hypocrisy, so they may preach the gospel or speak about Jesus in that way, and that's when there's a problem, isn't it?
Yeah and for years, people have said, "Practise what you preach."
But maybe it should also be "Preach what we practise."
Our front and back stage need to be the same.
But we can ditch't words.
John Stott says that, "the incarnation of Jesus is God the Father's spoken word into society."
Spoken word comes and lives amongst us and speaks and acts.
And I think too often we get this wrong.
So we think, we make two wrong assumptions, I think.
We assume all Christians are nice, and all not-yet Christians are nasty.
Neither of those are true.
So we think, "we're such more loving than everyone else, everyone will come to faith."
It's not true.
I'm about to do an outrageous name drop, which you'll need to forgive me for.
But when I was at Youth for Christ, we got Centre for Social Justice award, and I collected it from, here we go, Sir Bob Geldof.
And when I met Sir Bob Geldof, God spoke to me.
"This guy cares more about the poor than you do."
And he actually does, because God made everyone.
God left his fragrance on people.
God make Sir Bob Geldof as much as he made me.
And Bob Geldof seems to have a natural disposition towards the poor that I perhaps don't have.
However, you didn't meet me before I knew Jesus.
I now care a million times more about the poor than I did then.
So imagine if Bob Geldof met Jesus - he'd be dynamite, because he'd care so much more for the poor than he does now.
Our words give context to our deeds.
Our deeds alone assume we're the only people with a sort of monopoly on kindness.
It's not true.
Kindness is available to others.
We've also got to tell people what we believe and why.
I preached at a conference recently, about 300 men there.
I was told it's a discipleship conference and everyone was a Christian.
Just on the off chance, I did a gospel appeal.
Seven men gave their lives to Jesus, which is great!
Later in the day, the organiser of the conference came to find me.
He was buzzing.
"That was amazing, we didn't see anyone come to faith last year," he says.
I said, "Okay, did you ask?'
He says, "No."
Then it's not going to happen is it?
People aren't going to come to faith by osmosis
It's like we're moving towards this universalist position where everyone's gonna come to faith by accident anyway, and it's not true.
We've got to say to people, "I've painted your fence to share something of Jesus"
or "I'm sharing something of Jesus, now I'll paint your fence."
Thirty five years ago, evangelicals in the UK spoke too much and did too little.
We mustn't fall into the potential trap of today which is doing too much and not speaking enough.
We are working the soil harder than we've ever worked it.
But are we sprinkling enough seed?
The soil and the seed need each other.
The soil being the social action, the seed being the proclamation.
The two together leads to lasting fruit.
Now I don't want to go into it too much, because we're gonna cover this a bit more in depth in the coming weeks, but seeing as we're speaking about speaking the gospel, how important is it for us to think about the language with which we communicate?
At the very beginning of these sessions I spoke about the image that some non-Christians have of the preacher with the megaphone saying, "Turn or burn," all those rhyming cliches on the street corner.
I'm not sure if there are surveys ever done, how many people actually came to faith through those type of things.
But, how important is it for us to think about what we do actually speak?
Well I do quite a lot of this in quite a lot of different contexts.
I can imagine.
You can't do the same thing in each context.
So I've preached in everything from a Young Offenders' Institute, I've done assemblies, I've done Christian festivals, everything in between, curry nights.
You have to adapt to each context.
However, good communication is having a renaissance in culture.
If you look at the growth of stand up comedy in the last fifteen years and then at the same time people are saying, "You can't talk for 40 minutes anymore no one will listen to you."
But Michael McIntyre can do an hour and a half in front of fifteen thousand people.
I think something we've got to think about the quality of our communication.
We've got to think about how active it is, and we've also got to think about what we say.
However we mustn't dilute the gospel, we mustn't fall into what Bonhoeffer warned us of when he says, "Cheap grace is the biggest danger to the church."
You make the gospel what people want to hear.
The gospel in and of itself is offensive and in and of itself it says, "Everyone stop everything you're doing, transform your whole worldview and follow Jesus."
That's why as an Evangelist I'm in the rejection ministry.
For every person who says, "Yes I'll follow Jesus", ten say, "No, you're wrong, get lost."
But we've got to be strong in that.
There is no excuse for bad communication.
There is no excuse for wrong theology.
And there is no excuse for not being prepared.
And you can't cut and paste, "I did this over here, I do it over here"
You've got to say, "Holy Spirit, lead me, let me know, and let me do my best with the five percent I control, that the 95 percent that is anointing might make a difference in the hearts of those here."