Sometimes sharing the gospel looks really different to how we envision it to be or have experienced it in the past. One of my all-time favourite quotes is from St Francis of Assisi and he says that we are to “preach the gospel always and if necessary use words.”
When I first heard this quote I remember Ii was in the midst of working out how to go about sharing the gospel in a situation where I couldn’t openly share and there was a language barrier.
You might think that I’m talking about a cross cultural experience or being a missionary in another country, but the reality was that this was my experience in working at a warehouse in Adelaide while studying at Bible College in 2003.
When I was going through Bible College I had deep thoughts about how effective the Church was in making Jesus, the real Jesus, known to the hearts of the common Australian workers. My context was that of the factory workers I was with each week.
What I discovered was that there was a language barrier in the sense of a whole bunch of Christian words that meant nothing to these guys. Secondly I wasn’t able to freely share this amazing Gospel of love, hope and restoration because I would be persecuted by both staff and management, for it was against company policy to share religious beliefs.
Learning to Love as He does
This presented me with a challenge because I knew of people in that workplace that absolutely needed the love of God to restore their broken hearts and lives. How was I going to be able to share the gospel?
I remember at the time God challenged me with this question “Do you really love them?”
They weren’t my family, they weren’t my friends, but God had challenged me to love them as only He does. As I delved into the meaning of this God challenge I discovered that my heart wasn’t as pure as I’d thought. My motivation was about building up the tally of salvations to my name. How wrong is that?
As a result, I did some deep searching of my own heart and asked God to teach me how to love as He loved. What I discovered was that to love as He loves starts not in proclamation, but rather in demonstration.
I recently read another great quote and that is “the great commandment always comes before the great commission.” This makes a lot of sense because as we demonstrate the love of God we will only then open up an opportunity to proclaim the love of God and the Gospel of Jesus.
Learning to love can take all sorts of forms: the listening ear to a broken soul, buying that stranger you just met in the airport a cup of coffee, just journeying with a colleague, fellow student or family member for years and years. There is no simple answer about how to love like God does, other than to make “loving your neighbour” your priority.
In that factory all those years ago I was constantly asking God how to love my neighbour, because there were about 30 different types of “neighbours” in that workplace. In that journey I discovered that the only one who truly knew the hearts of these people was God and if I was to grow in my intimacy with the Father, He would reveal the keys to unlock those hearts to me. So what started in the prayer closet ultimately was the key to seeing these hearts become open to the Gospel.
Eventually, I was able to experience the profound love of God both in my heart and into the hearts that I worked with. God gave me countless opportunities to demonstrate his love.
These ranged from counselling through relationship problems to practical gifts that only God could have known were going to be so impactful. The result was the birthing of a gathering of people that would meet together, eat together, pray and learn about the real Jesus in a community that came to known as BBQ Church.
This community crossed the language barrier and delved into the real Jesus behind the Australian Church. I’m pretty sure I was one of the very few Bible College students who were blessed with a full fridge of beer as the members of the community shared their gratitude in response to how I had shown love to them.
That was 2003. Now we live in a world where society's response to anything related to Christianity is frowned upon and deemed to be bigotry. The challenge to share His love and the Gospel is now even more important in a world that is confused about identity and what real love is and with the imminent return of Christ.
Nothing can stop the demonstration of love
I think the answer lies in the same thing I applied back in 2003 and that is showing God’s love. We see Christians constantly being persecuted in our country for proclaiming the truth of the Gospel. Christians who are only standing up for their values are being denigrated on social media platforms.
One example is the recent persecution that Israel Folau has faced as a result of being a believer and living in the convictions of his beliefs. Despite this not being right we still have a commandment to love our neighbour, our work colleagues and even our enemies in order to genuinely share the good news. After all out of the three great Godly ideologies of hope, faith and Love, the Father considers the most important one is Love. (1 Corinthians Chapter 13)
So while we as Christians face the challenge of being able to freely speak about our faith, nothing will be able to stop us in demonstrating the Father's love. I can assure you when we pour out the Father's love through our lives and in everything we do it will open up the doors of those hearts that will be responsive to the Good News of the Jesus. This is the pattern of the Father.
The quote “preach the gospel always and if necessary use words” is just as relevant to us today to transform a world of brokenness. .
Justin Monaghan's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/justin-monaghan.html
Justin is married to his beautiful wife and together they pursue being his Kingdom agents through their intentional Jesus community house in Glenelg. Justin is also a prophetic artist under the label JR Faith Creations as well is pursuing a career in the entertainment industry with his new studies in VFX and digital illustration at university. He is a lover of surfing and anything adventurous.