Yes, Use Words When You Preach the Gospel
You can say a lot of things about Mark Driscoll, and I often do, but he is one of the preachers in today’s world who is actually using theological concepts in his sermons. He doesn’t sugar coat anything and he doesn’t preach simply for the sake of his own voice (though he is often accused of such things). His sermons are passionate, clear, long, and theological.
There’s not any fluff in Mark’s sermons.
In case there is any confusion, this is the way things once were. Pastors have served as theological guides since the beginning. They’ve described hard concepts for parishioners to get and they’ve outlined things like salvation so that their understanding of the Scriptures is clear.
Mark may be wrong in many ways, but he is doing what others, recently, haven’t been.
Yesterday he said this, in regards to the St. Francis attribution, “Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”:
Mark’s view is clear: The Gospel must be preached, with words. Demonstration is not enough.
This is not a new idea by any means. At first though, I was struck by his tone. I mean, it’s St. Francis for God’s sake. St. Francis was all about demonstration of the Gospel. We remember St. Francis and his lifestyle more than many many who have preached the Gospel.
Mark’s understanding hinges around his conception of salvation, and I’ve made it clear in the past that I don’t agree with his concept of elected salvation much at all.
However, I tend to agree with him here. I suppose that Jesus’s command to preach the Gospel is significant, but Jesus’s command takes different forms at different points. In Mark, Jesus commands his disciples to enter ministry by casting out demons. In Matthew, Jesus gives direct command to the disciples after his resurrection to go make more disciples by baptizing them and telling others to follow his teachings. What, then, is ministry truly supposed to look like?
Probably, both and.
I agree with Driscoll.
Not because it might lead to damnation if you don’t, but because it is practical for the spreading of the message. Mercy, hospitality, help, etc are all important for the livelihood of the Gospel. They are things that Jesus and Christian history has spoken of time and time again. But, in practicality, are they enough to spread the Gospel?
The truth is, we communicate with each other through words. Sometimes these are developed languages, sometime they are little more than grunts. But we communicate with each other through vocal inflections that we mutually agree mean something. These inflections help us to understand things. These inflections help us to understand each other. These inflections help us to understand our actions.
Evangelism is, I think, a word that was hijacked by those trying to save souls. They used it for all kinds of things: monetary gain, bigger churches, among others. They used the crap out of it, over and over, even distinguishing themselves from the mainline denominations with it.
I think St. Francis’s quote has been used a lot as of late because society has begun to regard evangelists as crazed, religious people who fight with whatever powers they can until their bullhorns run out. Society hasn’t appreciated the Christian television programs because they seem inauthentic. So, Christians not associated with these people have turned to other ways of spreading the Gospel. And the quote has found a new home, within people who want to spread Christ’s love, and care little about telling people why.
But evangelism is a call upon Christians. A call for the future of the Church.
And it’s a call that some Christians are afraid to approach now because of the connotations of it in our society. And that’s a problem. Less and less churches in America have a steady string of members and attendees. Which means less and less Christians are being formed. And less and less Christians are being inspired to go and spread the Gospel. Which means that less and less Christians are hearing the Gospel story. Which means there are less and less Christians.
Which means that Jesus’s command isn’t being followed.
We should exhibit works of mercy. We should also preach, with words.