Written by Stephen Cox
Who do you think of when you hear the word evangelist?
– The crazy street preacher on a soap box?
– The Christian super mum who not only looks after her husband and five kids but also writes evangelistic books, speaks at evangelistic coffee and chocolate nights and updates her trendy yet tastefully decorated blog twice a day?
– The ‘full-time’ ministers?
These are some of the examples that Lionel Windsor mentions in his short (very short!) book Gospel Speech. I think there is a grave misconception by many about what evangelising is and is not. I think most people have constructed such a concept in their mind about what evangelism actually looks like, that they feel ill-equipped or prepared to be able to measure up to the ideal they’ve conceived.
Yet — what is evangelising? Many would, of course, reply that evangelising means articulating the Gospel in a concise way to a non-believer. There is something to this. However, evangelising is so much more than that. Rather than being an action we perform, it is actually caught up with the totality of who we are. An extension of what it means to be Christian, and not something we should accidentally or haphazardly segregate from our lives.
What I mean by this is that, as followers of Christ, who are to live lives for Him — our lives are transformed to conform with this ultimate goal. We are now ‘new creatures’. Our lives have evidently altered. We now go to Church, hear about Christ, and talk about Christ. Jesus becomes the focus of our words. We share discussions with other believers about both Jesus and our mutual love of Him as our Lord and Saviour. Lionel Windsor helpfully labels this as ‘Gospel Speech‘. It’s a foundation of what it means to be a Christian.
Being a Christian impacts the way we speak, and in particular this means that the words of the gospel will not only be in our heart but also on our lips. The gospel is our signed statement of confession—the confession Paul talks about in Romans 10:10: “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved”.
Gospel speech, therefore, is not an optional extra for Christians. Salvation comes through a spoken message about a specific person. In God’s grace, we are saved through having this message in our hearts and in our mouths. In fact, in a very real sense, we become Christian by speaking the gospel. That is, we hear the message that Jesus is Lord, and all it entails, we accept that this message is true, and we ‘confess it’. At the very least, this means acknowledging it before God himself; admitting through prayer that Jesus is indeed Lord. And it’s not a great leap to confess this message – Jesus is Lord – to other people; for example at church and in everyday conversations. So actually, a Christian who prefers not to speak the gospel is a contradiction in terms. Gospel speech is, in fact, at the very core of what it means to be a Christian.
We can witness through our experiences in Church, that speaking about Jesus is part of our very fabric as Christians. Just as our actions should reflect Christ in all parts of our life, so too should our speech remain consistent. I am not saying, by this, that we should not take into account the different circumstances we may find ourselves speaking in. Our ‘Gospel Speech‘ will be different when we are speaking to believers as opposed to non-believers. However, we need to let our speech constantly be ‘Gospel Speech‘ — speech which has, like our lives, been transformed by Christ, to point people to Christ.
Thus, we’re not necessarily called to “evangelise” as much as we are called to live consistent lives for Christ, of which speaking about Christ — whether in a church or secular context — is a core aspect of that. If we are living lives for Christ, this would undoubtedly permeate and affect all aspects of our lives, and both our speech and actions should consequently be reflective of that. Evangelising, therefore, is not an independent action that a Christian does, but is, rather, a function of who we are.
I would heartily recommend checking out Lionel Windsor’s book ‘Gospel Speech‘, wherein he provides a different and practical perspective on how Christians should understand evangelism — and tackles some common objections and questions that people may have.
If you’re interested in reading more on this, I have a few copies to give away. If you’d like one, come and see me after the service (first in, best served!)