Proclaim AND Serve
2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.
When it comes to evangelism, Christians tend to gravitate in one of two directions. The first is to live by the saying “preach the gospel always and if necessary, use words”. This has commonly been called “lifestyle evangelism”. The thinking goes that if a Christian lives the way that God calls them to, their life will be so radically different from those around them that unbelievers will see the difference Christ makes. In other words, your good deeds are your witness. Living a holy life is what will demonstrate to the world what the gospel is. Typically, this thinking drives Christians towards acts of service: caring for the poor, giving generously, volunteering for good causes, and the like.
The other way Christians gravitate with evangelism is towards verbal sharing of the gospel. In my own experience, this group tends to be much smaller than the first. The thinking in this category is that the message of Jesus is just that – a message, which therefore must be conveyed with words. Sometimes Christians who are bold evangelists can come across as being arrogant or brash, and sometimes that stereotype is true. But the big idea here is that this form of evangelism is focused on sharing through speaking and not lifestyle.
As I see it, the Bible has a third option: take these two groups and merge them together. There is no doubt in my mind that sharing the gospel with others will require the use of words. Let’s just be honest. When Christians avoid sharing the gospel verbally in favour of “lifestyle evangelism”, they are doing it because it’s easier. But we cannot assume that our holy living will drive non-Christians to understand that Jesus died on the cross for their sins and rose for their salvation. It’s just not that simple. So we cannot adopt a merely lifestyle-based approach.
But we cannot accept a purely verbal approach either. If we share the gospel with our mouths, but our lives are full of sin and hypocrisy and laziness and selfishness, we destroy our witness. Non-Christians see that and want no part of it. It is so important that Christians speak the gospel, but it is equally important that we demonstrate the kind of Christian character that comes with being born-again.
The way Paul says it in 2 Corinthians 4:5 is that we need to “proclaim…Jesus Christ as Lord” and be a “servant for Jesus’ sake”. It’s not an either-or proposition. We need both. Christians need to open their mouths and proclaim, all the while adopting a heart of serving. The two go hand in hand. We simply cannot have one without the other. When both of these ingredients are mixed, you have a recipe for effective evangelism.
Here are a few questions for you to ponder over:
- Which style do you lean towards: letting your life speak for you, or speaking the gospel with your mouth? Why do you think you lean that way?
- How are you failing to proclaim the gospel to others who need it? Who specifically might you be avoiding this conversation with?
- How are you failing to live a holy life for the world to see the difference that Christ makes? How do you think that comes off to a non-believer?
- Take time to repent of your shortcomings and ask the Holy Spirit to help you become a better witness for Christ.