New Blog Post: Word vs Deed in Preaching the Gospel

I just read an article by Duane Liftin entitled, “You Can’t Preach the Gospel with Deeds and Why It’s Important to Say So” (May 2012 issue of Christianity Today).  I found this essay so instructive and inspiring, that I want to reflect on it today.  Liftin acknowledges the ongoing tension that exists between word and deed in the proclamation of the gospel.  As I understand the history of the church, verbal proclamation was for centuries the preferred and primary way of evangelism.  Paul seems to model this for us in the New Testament.  Accordingly, Liftin directs our attention to 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, one of the classic summaries of the gospel, which was penned by Paul.  Liftin points out that this good news can’t be communicated non-verbally.  It’s an impossibility.  Yes, this gospel has changed lives, including my own, so there’s a strong sense that we do live it out.  We embody the gospel through our deeds (the way we live, serve and love, etc.).  But when it comes to proclamation, Liftin argues, actions aren’t enough.  Indeed, they are the foundation and/or support for the verbal proclamation.  As he concludes: “The gospel of Jesus Christ is a verbal thing, and communicating it requires putting it into words.  This verbal witness is scarcely the whole of our calling, but neither is it dispensable.  Nothing can replace it.”  I think this is an accurate view of gospel proclamation and a helpful corrective for us, who tend to believe that our actions speak louder than words (that the gospel is somehow more effectively communicated through our deeds, rather than our words).  It’s understandable why we would go this way in North America, where absolute truth claims (i.e., that Jesus is the only way to the Father) are often considered unacceptable.  But the truth-claims of the gospel have always offended people, and they always will.  I’m thankful for Liftin, who has reminded me of the importance of the verbal proclamation of the gospel.  So how can we winsomely and creatively proclaim the gospel in word, and then support or affirm our gospel proclamation through deeds?

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