“Preach the Gospel, If neccessary use words” is Offensive


[NOTE: I have a updated/revised version of this post here. Feel free to read this but you will be better served viewing my most updated post]

Anyone Christian who works in a secular vocation will agree with these words.

I work at a Panera Bread right now. The majority of people I work with are not Christian. They know I’m a Christian; most of them know that I am planning to go to seminary to go into Christian ministry. In their eyes, this may be the closest they ever get to a pastor. Whether that has any bearing on their life is a different issue. I don’t know.

Talking about Jesus is probably the hardest thing in the world at to do at work. Sure, it’s easy to talk about God, religion, even theology. It’s even easy to talk about behavior – what makes Christians different from others. These are good things to talk about, they are all part of the Christian religion. They help open up the discussion. But if you want to raise hairs then start talking about Christ and use the word, “Christ”.

I’ve written about this statement before, “Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary use words.” But my continued aggravation over it is still there. Partly because I find it so difficult to share Christ. I am offended by those who think that good works are how we preach the gospel. It’s a joke. It’s offensive to Christ. Jesus Christ died so that you would tell others about him. Jesus didn’t go around healing people and hoping they would get it – he wasn’t like, “Here you go blind man, here’s your sight. Figure it out.” The apostle Paul didn’t show up in cities and start healing people off the bat. No, he went in and found the best place to start preaching the gospel.

I have to constantly remind myself, “Preach Christ! Preach Christ! Preach Christ!” while I am at work. It is so easy for me – a bible and theology student – to revert to less offensive things. I can be the nicest person possible, just as nice as the many people I work with. Most of them are in fact much nicer than I am. I work with some wonderful people. But if I don’t preach Christ, then I simply end up looking like another religious guy: I go to church, don’t do bad things, treat people well, and the list goes on. Seriously – who cares?

I find it so offensive because people who use this phrase misunderstand the most fundamental truth of the Christian message – its NEWS. The 6 o’clock news anchors don’t come on and start doing charades, hoping you’ll figure out what happened that day. “Today in the NEWS, Bob has the story [scene cuts to some guy doing silly hand gestures...]” No, they speak. They talk. They talk for an hour, trying to communicate to you.

I am inclined to think that people who like to use this phrase have spent very little time in a secular profession. Or else they are actually very ashamed of the message that they have been given as Christians. I don’t want other people to say, “Wow Nate, you’re really nice.” That’s great and helpful, but lots of nice people go to hell every single day. What I want people to say is, “You seriously believe that Christ is the only way to be saved? You seriously believe that I am going to hell if I don’t trust in Christ? You seriously believe that it doesn’t matter how good I try to be, that my efforts don’t count? You seriously believe that all I have to do is trust that Jesus forgives me and makes me right with God, without me doing one thing? – Seriously??? That’s some heavy stuff man.”

That’s what matters. That’s what saves people – a message – Words. “Preach the gospel, if necessary use words” makes me sick to think about.

I must say, “No. Preach Christ! Preach Christ! Preach Christ!” I don’t care what you must do, make sure that you preach Christ. I mustn’t get suckered into the lie that it’s my actions that do the talking. No it’s my words that do the talking. And if I can’t speak, then no one gets saved, no matter how nice I am. That’s the point. My actions give credence to my words, but I’m still a sinner, and God must be preached, regardless of how screwed up and sinful I am. Even if I suck at being a nice and kind person, even if I suck at always doing the right thing every time, even if I suck at making all the right decisions, I must still preach Christ. In fact, that’s why I preach Christ, because my effort is not what counts – it’s Jesus’ effort.

(Side note. I know that St. Francis of Assisi didn’t actually say this. Nonetheless, Christians eat this phrase up like ice-cream on a hot day)

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31 comments

  1. I totally agree. Totally totally totally. Not only does it offend, but I fundamentally think it is a symptom, and a prophetic one if that, of a problem that is beginning to occur in the church. It’s an ideology and a mindset, and that should frighten us.

    Oswald Chambers reveals some pretty telling things when it comes to living the Christian life. He references the Sermon on the Mount when he mentions salt and light – two of the most conspicuous objects in the time and culture. Salt – the preservative and wound-healing tool, and light – a way to penetrate the darkness and be a beacon to others.

    “Preach the Gospel always, and when necessary use words,” would be like “salt losing its saltiness,” or like being a light house but not turning your light on. Right with you man! Keep up the good work.

  2. well written nate. really well written.

  3. Fred Paschall

    Certainly like your blog message. In addition, I like your last name.

  4. Thomas

    Hmmm. As to the question is St Frances of Assisi actually said this. Probably not, however his life LIVED this… So In essence St Frances “Did not SAY it, he Lived it.” Hmmmm Preach Christ, Preach Christ, Preach Christ… Well I think you have a point. Were I in a theatre, on fire, I would not simply walk out and hope that poeple got the message they were in danger from my actions. No I would certainly point it out to someone, who in turn would help me sound the alarm. So I agree that you have a valid point. But answer me this who are you more likely to follow a preacher standing up on a stage preaching, or the old woman who gets up and goes about feeding/healing/bringing comfort unto the least of these. Mother Teresa “Preached Christ” with her Christ directed. Holy Spirit led actions. Good works are just that “good works”. But according to Holy Scripture “…as you have done unto the least of these, you have done it unto me, enter thou into your rest.” Often quotes are attributed to the worng peron, and as you have pointed out may never have actually been said. Neat thing is regardless you have “Preached Christ” to another soul this evening due to a quote from St Frances of Assisi regardless of you whether he said it or not… Have Christ Filled Day!!!
    I leave you with a quote I love and have absolutely no idea who said it. “Life is not about avoiding the storms. Life is about learning to dance in the rain.” Preach Christ with you mouth, your heart, your life, your prayers, indoing unto the least of those…

    • Nate Paschall

      Thomas, 2 things:

      1) I think I stated quite clear that I do not know whether this was attributed to Francis. My intent was to absolve Francis of the undue maligning he has received for having the quote innaccurately attributed to him.

      2) I disagree with the false dichotomy you proposed with the preacher/mother teresa situation. Fortunately I do not have to choose between either – both are faulty in certain respects. I believe Christ demonstrates this perfectly since he both healed AND preached, unlike your dichotomy supposes (that is, that one must preach or do good works like ma Teresa).

      I don’t think you quite understood the import of my post.I disagree with the false dichotomy that many Christians have proposed, using this phrase as support.

      The necessity of preaching Christ with words is the necessity of having water to flow through a piping system. Good works are like the conduit/pipes along which the water flows and appropriately channel it for it’s most efficient use. But good works, like pipes, are in vain if there is no water flowing through it. As in plumbing you must have the essential ingredient – water, for the plumbing to serve it’s purpose, so in the gospel you must have the essential ingredient – the preaching of words for the gospel to accomplish its purpose.

      I caution against making a false dichotomy with words and deeds. Both are necessary – a wise man understands how to use them both – not by pitting one against another, but in proper relation to each other.

  5. Hi I’d just like to give my two cents.

    ‘Preach the Gospel always, and when necessary use words’ shouldn’t be offensive at all unless your ego is getting in the way of your faith. This term was not created as a life to live by all day, every day, you’re thinking too deeply about it, haha. Glorifying God with love through the Holy Spirit which we have been blessed with is ALWAYS supported, but a lot of times, mentioning Christ continually is something you can’t do to say, an Athiest, the first time you meet them, because that’s the definition of ‘Bible beating’ which is notttt cool whatsoever; that’s just perpetuating unnecessary controversy.

    I was an Athiest up until a year and a half ago and people who beat Christ over my head with a baseball bat were all of the people I remember making me NOT want to follow Him. Unless we’re acting in a way that shows love or unification, then we’re not letting the Holy Spirit work in us near enough. The moment it was revealed to me who and what I was without our Lord, was in a tattoo shop, while speaking to the owner of the shop, who is a very devout Catholic, and not once did he ever mention God or Jesus unless he KNEW that I was comfortable and willing to be open-minded about the subject. Sometimes you’ve got to warm up people before you can let them know that God is the reason you’re the loving person that you are.

    Preaching Christ and the Gospel is something that you should always do, but you can’t do it without knowing the context of the situation and most times all you’re doing is pushing people away if you’re preaching without truly loving the people who are being preached to.

    Mother Teresa rarely helped Christians find their way to God. She was such a blessing to the world, I can’t even describe it. She helped people be the best people they could be, despite their current beliefs; and THROUGH her LOVE she brought soooo many people to the faith that neither you nor I can comprehend it.

    The early men and women in the church have been preaching Christ and love working in tandem since his death and resurrection; I can see where your side of this is coming from, but you can’t just say ‘Jesus Christ is our Messiah’ and an Athiest is going to magically going to snap into the Christian faith.

    Cheers

  6. Grandma

    Hey I understand your dilema. I hve worked in public and then went to mission field for years overseas. I understand what you are saying. However, if your attitude, and words are not silently preaching,they really dont want to hear your spoken words. People I know and hang out with do both graciously. Like my pastor – who on the side ministers by using his awesome gift as a guitar master, in a bar in a smmall town. People have watched him and been smitten by the spirit of God. And they requested salvation without him saying a word. You can tell someone who walks with God Nate, and I wish I was near the Panera Bread place where you work. I know you would be preaching by your behavior, as well as by your words. Thank you for your honesty! God Bless your work and may you get to seminary soon! You are a shining example of Christ! P.S. I never post things this is a first.I felt to encourage you!

  7. Tácio Mateus

    Beloved brother,

    I believe you have to go beyond the literal meaning of the phrase. Of course, if you take it literally, it’s non-sense, and sounds like an excuse for those who are shy enough not to preach about Christ, I agree with that.At the same time, the phrase makes us think about that really is to “preach” the Gospel. What I mean is: Is it possible to convert someone wihtout a living testimony of the gospel you preach? Or is it possible to get someone to believe the gospel without speaking about it? Both have to be in total harmony. When Jesus healed that leprous, he told him not to spread out what had happened. I believe Jesus didn’t want to raise a racket, as to speak, but instead show people his power through the miracles he could operate. However, the man couldn’t follow Christ’s instructions and a great crowd came to see him.

    I understand your point of view, and i hope i could express myself well enough to make you see that there is another side of the coin, which can be reached through this very same statement: “Preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words”.

  8. Julie P.

    I agree! Well written!

    How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”… Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. Romans 10:14-15,17 (NIV)

  9. Judy

    I believe the phrase has more to do with being an example
    of who Christ is rather than your works. Be the person who stands
    out in the crowd. He is nice when no one else is. He’s kind to the
    unkind. Patient to the un-patient. People listen to what they see
    before they listen to what you say.

  10. Brian Thetford

    OK, I have to disagree with that phrase being offensive. It is the farthest thing from being offensive.
    The fact of the matter is that this country is full of people who are all to happy to “preach Christ” yet they cannot live the life they preach. Do you know what the number one reason non-believers cite when asked why they would not become Christian? Christians…..let me be clear on that: Christians are keeping people from becoming Christians. The problem being the Good News they preach does not match the lives they live. We have to ask ourselves if we are some of those Christians. Do you have vast knowledge of Christ? Do you hold that knowledge over others as a badge of victory? If so you might want to re think your plan. do you look at other religions and other people with disdain because you cannot fathom why they would turn from Christ? If so you are not living out the life of Christ (Christ was well aware that many would hate Him even after His ressurection, He did it anyway) …and you are working very hard to turn people from the very goal you claim to want them to attain. You see the idea behind living your life as Christ is to draw people to you. Christ did not work miracles and tell them to figure it out, you are right for sure, however he also did not say I will only do it if you come to church next Sunday. He created the opportunity for people to come to Him. That is what is meant by living, not speaking. If people cannot see Christ in your life to the point that they are drawn to you, to the point that they say “man, I want some of what he has”, then why would they care what you have to say? We cannot wear a suit of armor, then try to convince the world that we are full of love. We have to live the life of service, of love, of forgiveness, and compassion, so that others will come to us, and then we can share the good news with words. I too work in a secular job, I am a pastor as well. I also have people that I work with that are non-believers, and we have had some wonderful conversations that have lead to conversion. However that is God at work not me. I might be the spark, God is the flame, I might crack the door open, but it is the Lord that throws it open, and floods the person with love. None of that would have happened however, if the life I lived was not worthy enough to spark interest. So yes, go out into the world and preach the Gospel, use words if you have to.

    Now I will agree that many people take that phrase too far and use it as an excuse to do nothing, to speak nothing, and to try nothing more than to lead a good life. However just like the Christian that spends his day beating people over the head with the Bible, the person that just leads a “good life” has missed the mark. Christ did not live a “good Life” He lived a spectacular life. As a result when we say live the life, it is far and away more than just being polite, or getting along. It is going above and beyond. It is living a life where we can see ourselves doing nothing else but working to make others lives better, helping, loving, forgiving. Huh, suddenly living the life seems a little harder than memorizing some text in Greek! Our words carry little weight if they are not backed up by action. So we have to learn to live the life, before we can profess that life to others.

    Sorry it was such a long comment, God bless, and I hope you do well in your studies.

    Brian Thetford

  11. ryan

    It isn’t offensive and you are over analyzing one mans
    opinion. You Show Jesus through a smile at someone who is having a
    bad day, you can do so by showing love to the unloveable and
    forgiving those who say this. Jesus said go out and Preach the
    Kingdom, St. Francis was a man making a point of live the Gospel
    and he lived in a much different era

  12. Leni

    I don’t find this quote offensive at all. To me, it says that we should live as Christ wanted us to live — to help our fellow man, to aid the poor and the sick, to feed the hungry, etc. We’re to do it because when we render love and caring unto someone else (the least among us), we render it unto Christ. It’s for that reason alone and not for any personal gain. And if anyone asks us why we do these things, we can give the answer that it’s because of Christ who lives in us. Sometimes, we may be the only Jesus people will see so our actions need to mirror his.

    I would much rather see this approach than another where a person preaches, judges and condemns when in fact, their own lives may not reflect Godly values. They may actually do the cause of Christianity more harm than good because of their hypocrisy. I can’t tell you how many times in my life that I’ve encountered people like this.

    JMO.

  13. Wendy

    This quote was from a truly holy saint. St. Francis of Assisi. One way we can show people our love for God is in our action. We are all children of Christ and we should remember to treat people as if they are Christ: for we know that Christ is in everyone. It means more to show love and kindness to people who don’t return it, than it is to show it to people who do.
    Gods’ peace be with you.

  14. Brother Todd

    Well, then my friend, you have missed the point entirely. If you cannot be the example in action and life and virtue to your supposed spiritual vocation, you have no words to rest on them then. If you are allowed to speak to your co-workers, I am afraid you may well alienate them away from the faith. Spend some more time with it, I was once like you and thought nothing of works. Remember even Paul’s words in James – You cannot be saved by your faith alone. But they are important, and I think you will realize a more solid communion with God once you can balance these things together rather than attempting to solely evangelize others without an example of life to stand on first. God Bless+ An unworthy Solitary Monk

    • Jack

      I’m sorry but the apostle Paul never said you cannot be saved by your faith alone. God’s grace and faith in His son Jesus Christ is what will save. NOT FAITH + WORKS. NOT WORKS. Romans 2:2-4 “If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
      We are saved by faith. I agree wholeheartedly that FAITH without works is dead.
      Ephesians 2:4-5
      “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
      Christ did all the work for our salvation. Our works is a overflow of the love of Christ, to even call it works seems unfitting, as it is by the grace of God we have the blessing to be included in His kingdom and His works.
      Please reconsider what salvation truly is and do not misinterpret what the apostle said, for as you are correcting this man on misinterpreting St. Francis, you must be corrected for misinterpreting the apostle Paul.
      Again,
      Ephesians 2:8-10
      “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
      Which God prepared in advance for us to do. We are saved by faith and God’s grace. Works has nothing to do with our salvation, only the works of Christ our Lord.
      I am trying to understand this concept more myself, but it states FAITH without works is dead. Does that mean that the person with dead faith is not saved? Perhaps, perhaps not. Yet let us take into consideration the whole Bible and not a couple of verses.
      Titus 3:5
      ” he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,”
      another translation:
      “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;”
      PLEASE reconsider what you have said lest you alienate others away from the faith and take away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
      God bless you, may He give you wisdom and understanding, as well as fear of the Lord for that is the beginning of wisdom.

  15. Hello Nate and thank you for your blog and your passion for preaching the gospel. I was raised in a non-christian home, and knew nothing of Jesus until I was 16 years old, when some guys from my baseball team invited me to a church camp to play softball and chase chics, I thought that sounded pretty cool. They didn’t actually tell me it was a church camp, but I should’ve been suspicious when we had to load up on a church bus to get there.

    For the first time in my life I heard the gospel shared, and I immediately responded to it and received Jesus Christ into my life. I had absolutely no knowledge of the Bible, and I had never even been to church one single time yet. I just knew in my knower that I had to tell my family about this incredible man named Jesus Christ.

    As I told them about Jesus, my siblings laughed and made fun of me, and I’m not exactuly sure what my parents thought about all of this. It was so different for me to come around and talk about God, the Bible and religious stuff. I must tell you my spirit was almost crushed within me from their lack of acceptance, and constant ridicule of me over this God thing. I must confess now that none of them were ready to receive the truth of God’s word, at all.

    I made new friends at camp, and begin to read the Bible and learn all of the incredible truths about his word and his life. my new Bible-believing church-going friends really helped me understand more about God, the Bible and the church. I asked them how I could ever get my family to a place to believe in this amazing book and even more amazing God.

    They shared that the book is a book of promises, and one of those promises is Acts 16:31…to believe in the Lord Jesus and you’ll be saved, you and your household. they encouraged me to pray for my family to be receptive to the gospel, and to live a life that would demonstrate faith in action. Proverbs 27:19 says that as water reflects the face, so one’s life relects the heart. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 says, for we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing…we are the aroma that brings life!

    I began praying for my family along with many others, and prayer combined with a life led by his holy spirit, made all the difference in my entire family coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus. It was the talk, but it never would’ve happened without a walk to match that talk. As a matter of fact it was the walk and the aroma of Christ that made me a new creation! It was the silent two and half year walk that earned their respect, to again listen to me share with them again before I finished high school. In March of 1974 my father, mother, sister and brother all gave their hearts to the Lord Jesus. As a result of them applying the very same promises and walking out their faith, over 60 more of my extended family received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

    The insensitive talk alone brought jeers and ridicule upon me, but when combined with love, faith, prayers, and the holy spirit…my family is changed forever for many generations! Preach on brother…but don’t leave out the rest of the tools of bringing the gospel to lost souls. Since that hot August evening at a church camp in Davis Oklahoma, I made it a mission to share the gospel with all of my classmates before finishing high school, which I believe I shared it with everyone of them. Many, many of them recieved Christ. I went to Bible school, and have faithfully served Jesus everyday since I heard the gospel some forty years back. I can’t tell you how many thousands of people have received Christ since then, but it is significant. Some came by preaching, some came from being helped in a time of need, some came from being the recepiant of unconditional love, but all came because Jesus and his precious Holy Spirit drew them to himself. Use every means possible to win some!

    Respectfully,

    A servant of the King of Kings

  16. You really think that Christ is not verbally proclaimed? You must be on a different planet. There is a Church at every corner of my street! The problem is that so many don’t practice what they preach. I have met the most selfish and ego centered people who deceive themselves into believing they are Christians. I have seen pastors living lavish lifestyles in the name of God. If Jesus were to come now, he will be murdered again! His message has been distorted by so many who use the Gospel for nothing but their selfish gains. How dare you point a finger at the inspired words of a holy man. We need more of him! If you are having problems spreading Christ’s message by your deeds, then perhaps you need to look at your life very carefully. The early Christians were known by their love for one another. THAT was what set them apart. THAT was what converted people. THAT made people to ask and say, LOOK HOW THEY LOVE EACH OTHER! I have brought people to Christ by my actions more than my words. People listen to you, but they watch what you do more than what you say. Have you never heard that action speaks louder than words! I am greatly appalled that you say that those words of the great St. Francis, “Preach the Gospel, If necessary use words”, is offensive. Your ignorance knows no bounds. Before going to preach Christ, take some time to go and learn English language. Then after that, take some lessons in Christian History, apparently you have absolutely no clue about that either. Then, and ONLY after then, shut your mouth and try to win people to God by your actions. If after a year, you have no conversion to your name, you have to repeat the steps away! You may think that my words are harsh, but the gravity of your ignorance is most despicable, arrogant, and NOT fit for Christ.

    • kc9bcy

      Those words should only be offensive to one leading a life of religion, rather than one neither lived by or for Christ, nor by His effort.

    • Kathy

      Sadly, I can’t find any sign of love in this response. This would have been a good opportunity to show your love.

  17. richard

    I think the heart of the quote is not saying, to not preach or speak about Jesus, but that is even more important to live what you are preaching, as they saying goes. “Actions speak louder then words.” You could go on for days about the love of Jesus but if you don’t show it then why would anyone listen?

  18. I agree. Recently I was told By a Pastor this phrase. Right before he rebuked me for sharing the Gospel with two men on the church steps!! It seems church attendance is more important these days than TRUTH being preached. I was kind and loving in sharing the Gospel with these men,and they talked and asked questions for at least an hour. One of them later decided to call the church and complain that I was “Shoving Christ down their throat”. And that he was OFFENDED ! Well guess what the Gospel is OFFENSIVE to many. To one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 2 Corinthians 2:16.
    How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them ?I Agree that we should really do both. Live the Gospel And PREACH it.
    Keith

  19. Rita W. Troup

    … if neccessary, use words, doesn’t mean keep your mouth shut. Sounds as if words are neccessary in this scenario you “paint”.

  20. Pingback: “Preach the Gospel, If Necessary Use Words” – Revisited (Again) « Nate Paschall

  21. I do not believe this quote meant to use that as your primary means of evangelism. Instead, I see it that you should practice Christianity in such a way that there is no question what/who you are and who you serve. And when those people probe at you for answers…Words are necessary.

    Words though, are and should be Primary means of evangelism.

  22. Mike

    If the phrase was, “Preach the gospel at all times; when possible, use words,” I’d be a lot more comfortable with it. Then, it would be clear – we are to always demonstrate and give evidence of the gospel with our lives, and are to use every opportunity to share the news of the gospel explicitly, whenever there is an opportunity.

    I agree that this has become a crutch for Christians who wish to not offend people by sharing the gospel, but still feel like they are living up to God’s call on their lives by simply “living” the gospel.

  23. Some of you are taking these words way too deep. “Preach the Gospel always, when necessary use words,” is how I heard it. It is in no way offensive. There are times to speak the Word, and times to keep your mouth shut. We need to ask for Wisdom from God to know how to, and when to implement what ever He wants to get across to a person so as to bring them closer to an experience with God. I could care less that [you] disagree with my words here. If Christ Jesus is cool with it, then I feel I’m doing a stroke of business allowing the Holy Spirit to operate as He may.

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  26. “In fact, that’s why I preach Christ, because my effort is not what counts – it’s Jesus’ effort.”

    Yay, more homo-christianity. Do us all a favor, and just stop. Your liberal sin-sin-sin Christianity is of Satan.

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