“Preach the gospel always. If necessary, use words.” This statement is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, and to me is the most profound, succinct and effective method of evangelism.
I remember one night in April of 1983 when I was sitting in my bedroom with a friend of mine. This was following a night out with a group of high school friends from the church I was attending with my parents. Our church was in another town, so none of the kids went to the same school I did. Up to that point, I was kind of attending church against my will. I had developed a talent over the years of being able to tune out teachers or pretty much anyone who was talking about stuff I didn’t want to hear. I could look them dead in the eyes and hear nothing. I had been doing that pretty consistently in church when my parents made it mandatory for me to go.
But this one night in my room, I sat with my friend and peppered her with a hundred questions about Christianity. Not so much theological questions, but lifestyle questions. I wanted to know what I was considering signing up for. I didn’t know what I was going to have to give up in order to take this step. She assured me numerous times and ways that you come as you are. God will take care of things in His time.
The friends I had made in this church were so good to me. They never once treated me as an outsider. They never made me uncomfortable by asking me probing questions about my beliefs. They never brought up topics that would exclude me or make me uncomfortable. Instead, they invited me to just about everything they did. What was particularly refreshing was that their conversation and their actions were completely consistent with what they believed, but they were totally normal people. You see, my thoughts about Christians were that they were all boring and prudish. This group was anything but boring.
Consistency is what it’s all about. I put these people through microscopes and x-rays. I watched and listened to everything. And they were exactly what they proclaimed to be. No more, no less. Now, all these years later, I still do my best to apply these very same qualities in my life. As Christians, we are held to a higher standard. This may seem unfair at times, but it’s true nonetheless. Look at the way Christians are portrayed in movies and on television. Look at the way the media pounces on Christians who are caught in some kind of indiscretion. But we bring a lot of the negativity down on ourselves. We can be so judgmental, while at the same time, behaving inconsistently with what we profess.
What story is your life preaching right now? Is it consistent with one who professes to be a follower of Christ? Or do you participate in activities that would confuse others about what you really stand for?
You already know the answer. This topic doesn’t come to you as a surprise. If you don’t pay your car loan, you can’t be surprised and angry when the repo guy shows up at your door. If you’re doing things you shouldn’t be doing, you can’t be shocked when God speaks to you about it.
It’s time to commit to living consistently with what you profess. It’s time to live a lifestyle that preaches the love of Christ.