Being the gospel
Being the gospel
16 November 2016
I’m a product of the 1970s evangelical tradition. That time when the Four Spiritual Laws pamphlet was in my pocket, as I waited for the next opportunity to “share the gospel”. That time when I plastered stickers on school bags and lockers — “Seven days without the Lord makes one weak” – which was supposed to attract the questioning non-believer, but I secretly hoped no one would ask me. That time when the pressure to make converts was real and palpable. After all, it was all up to me.
Fast forward 30 years when I became a Salvo officer. In my first appointment I collected in pubs and clubs around Canberra. I loved hotels – loved the sense of community that existed there as people met at the end of the week for one, two or too many drinks.
I began to get to know a particular group of people in one of the clubs and would organise my collecting so that this club was the last stop. Over a soft drink I would sit and chat for half an hour or so. It was in this situation, where I had a “captive audience”, that God very clearly said to me, “Keep your mouth shut”.
Oh, what a challenge that was! For one who is a born communicator, whose heart was for people to come to know Jesus, to not be able to talk about my faith was very difficult. However, in the silence, I was challenged by a number of things. I was challenged to trust that, as a witness to Jesus, the Holy Spirit in me was enough. I was challenged to trust that God would work through me even if I did nothing but be a friend to these people. And as I trusted God more deeply in this way, it was amazing to see how the people in this group then turned the conversation to matters of faith and the Bible. None of them made declarations of faith, but I am convinced that God was at work (and is still at work) in these people’s lives.
This brings me to the question: What if we didn’t feel the need to “share” the gospel? What if all we needed to do was “be” the gospel? The gospel, in the New Testament sense, is the teaching or revelation of Christ – both what Jesus taught and what he showed by his life. In the Greek, gospel is the translation of the noun euangelio, meaning “good news” and occurs 76 times, and the verb euangelizo, which occurs 54 times and means “to bring or announce good news”.
Can we bring good news or announce good news if we don’t use words? I like the verse in Isaiah 52:7 which combines both the oral bringing of good news and the physicality of the messenger: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” Here the Hebrew word basar combines both the telling and the showing in its meaning of to bear news, to bear tidings, to publish, to preach, and to show forth.
Sharing the gospel can be easy – it is easy to spruik, either in written or oral form, the truths of the gospel. It is so much harder to “live” the gospel in the day-to-day with other people. I think “being” the gospel is the harder call because it means I must be intentional about my life becoming more and more as God would have it be.
I take my lead from Francis of Assisi, who is attributed as saying, “Preach the gospel at all times and, when necessary, use words”. I am convinced that unless I can “live” the gospel, “be” the gospel, then no amount of words about the gospel will make any sense at all.
Bron Williams has a consultancy and coaching business based in Melbourne. For details see backstory.com.au