Can You Share Your Faith but Not Say Anything?

Straight after lunch, we unearth the traditional game of Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit. Dust blown off the box cover. And then someone suggests charades may be a better offer.

Such are family gatherings.

It starts with someone asking for a recap of the rules: no speaking, what are the agreed signs for book, film . . .  And what is all that tapping the arm business? Oh yes, syllables.

Unless you are Uncle Geoff who served with the navy, and he knows Morse code. But that, he is told, is cheating. See rule #1.

No speaking. Or spelling words. Essentially, the same thing.

It's not long into the game until someone gets frustrated. Then they do the unthinkable and actually say something! Well, they were trying to describe 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'.

Not being able to use words but get the idea across is the heart of what makes charades fun. Or challenging and frustrating, depending on your viewpoint.

Faith sharing is not a game of charades.

Sharing faith is sometimes fun. It is also sometimes challenging and perhaps a little frustrating. But faith sharing is not a game. It is important. And it's not meant to be more difficult by restricting the ability to speak.

And yet, when we get nervous about sharing our faith, it's easy to think that what we DO is more important than what we SAY. In other words, when we don't speak, aren't we at risk of playing a game of faith sharing charades?

It's true that living distinctively as Christians is important, but that alone isn't enough.

An oft misquoted quote about sharing faith.

“Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”

No, Jesus didn’t say that. Nor, it seems, did St. Francis of Assisi to whom this is attributed. What St Francis said was that “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”

That echos what we read in James chapter 2: “Faith without deeds is dead.”  An often-misunderstood passage, James 2 is reduced to ‘do good stuff'. And doing good stuff being the best way of showing faith. Even sharing faith.

In fact, both St Francis and the bible passage mean the same thing: lip service to faith is insufficient. Faith must result not in just what you say, but also what you do. It has nothing to do with only doing 'good stuff'.

In fact, St Francis spent a great deal of time preaching outside of the church. He spoke creatively like the storytellers and entertainers of the day. And they were disruptive words. Challenging words.

In St Francis’ day, most people held some kind of Christian belief already. So, saying more of the same kind of thing that was being said in churches would have fallen on already tired ears. Instead, he broke the styles and traditions that people were used to. Could he even have been a bit ‘fresh expressions’ in his style?

 

What, then, does the bible itself say about using words?

Well, the Old Testament is full of God sending his prophets to go and announce his message. A good example here is Jonah – one might think of him as a reluctant evangelist.

Commentators tend to think of the tale of Jonah as a bit of a parable to the Israelites. God wanted the Israelites to be a sign or example for all people of the earth. This is what God needs from us as Christians as well. But they spent much of their time worrying about staying special.

Jonah, in the story, becomes the example of the calling of the Israelite nation. He is sent to a people he doesn’t think should be rescued from God’s wrath. And when he finally gets there, he gets annoyed that they repent, and God forgives them.

Jonah didn’t want to say anything. And when he did, he didn’t like the result. He even tried to find an excuse at the end about why he shouldn’t have said anything in the first place.

Which brings me to my big question:

Do we sometimes try to find excuses to not say anything?

If we don’t say something, and rely only on actions, then I honestly think that what we are doing is a strange form of charades to communicate our faith.

Let’s invite someone to church. Only we won’t use words, instead we could just walk past them in the street and start waving at them to follow us.

See how silly it sounds? We have to use words.

Or as Paul puts it in Romans 10.14.

[quote] 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?

Preaching, here, could equally be written as ‘saying something’.

In fact, that’s exactly what the early Christians did. And it was effective. “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went” – Acts 8.4. They talked about it.

Jesus didn’t say to his disciples who he sent ahead of him ‘just go do some miracles and that is enough’. He told them to announce the kingdom of heaven was near and heal the sick. (Luke chapter 10). He told them to use words.

 The community of the church is apostolic and also prophetic. Namely linked to the time of Jesus and sent out by him to challenge and change the world to be of the kingdom of God.

Loving works, together with saying something.

Now I am quite happy to say that not everyone is a preacher. And the idea of an aggressive form of evangelism on a street corner sticks in my throat. But, 1 Peter 3.15 says ‘always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have’. Do it gently and with friendship too! Colossians 4.6 – know how to answer everyone.

Let’s put all this together.

1. Yes, you do have to say something. No one has yet invented the game of faith sharing charades.

2. No one ever who is important said that actions speak louder than words. What they DID say was that our actions had to back up our words. But words are certainly not secondary to the action, and you can just ‘do’ things instead. Or that doing things is enough.

3. The bible is quite clear. Old and New Testament alike: talking about God’s kingdom is going to take using some words as well as action.

4. Actions back up the words. So don’t use words alone! A good way of doing this is creating a space for people to ask the question about what motivates you. And you could do that with the [Link] 5 love languages approach [/link]

Getting over doubt, and becoming courageous, sometimes starts with such honesty. Because then we can start to do something about it. On the Talking Jesus Course this is exactly what we look at together. So why not join us?