[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)