Actions Speak Louder With Words
By: Dr. Steven C. Riser
Introduction: The Relationship of Actions and Words
Intimidated? Uncomfortable? Fearful? That’s how many sincere Christians feel when asked to share their faith. The problem in many cases is not so much a matter of being unwilling to tell people about their faith as it is feeling inadequate about giving a verbal witness. Is that your situation? Then this article is for you!
Perhaps there was an occasion when you attempted to witness, only to have the words leave your mouth like blocks of ice falling to the floor. Perhaps when you have tried to inject Christ into the conversation, it comes as more of an abrupt intrusion and the other person goes away feeling you had set him up for a religious pitch. Such results are more than merely embarrassing, they are enough to cause you to quit trying to speak out for the Lord altogether.
Some believers have attempted to comfort themselves by retreating into a kind of evangelism where they let their lives do the talking. What I do, they reason, speaks more clearly than what I say. After all, don’t actions speak louder than words? Yes, but actions speak even louder with words! The truth of the matter is, while a proper lifestyle is vital to an effective witness for Christ, evangelism involves proclamation. You can’t separate the two and have biblical evangelism. Jesus didn’t separate the two and neither should we. Once we win the right to be heard, we must boldly, lovingly and verbally share the good news of God’s love with others!
Explanation: Preparing To Speak Up For the Lord
What can we do to prepare ourselves to speak for the Lord? Remember six things:
- God wants us to speak for Him – we are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:17-20). We are commissioned to do so – we are called to be Christ’s witnesses (Acts 1:8).
- God wants us to “speak the truth in love.” Don’t sacrifice one for the other.
- God wants us to always be prepared to give an answer (1 Pet. 3:15). While witnessing is never easy, your comfort level improves with training and experience.
- God wants us to demonstrate gentleness and respect (1 Pet. 3:15). Whether they agree with you or not, people appreciate being respected as persons.
- All true evangelism is a two sided affair. On one hand, God is working through me to bear witness to another. On the other hand, God is working in the life of the other person to prepare his/her heart to receive my loving and truthful witness. God is sovereign in the entire process!
- Only the Holy Spirit of God can regenerate a sinful heart therefore God calls us to be faithful in sharing the Good News and leave the results to Him.
When we grasp these facts we can begin to acquire a more biblical attitude toward people who need the Savior. We can begin to identify with people in their spiritual needs, minister to them where they are and move them to a clear understanding of the Gospel. We must not generate more heat than light! It’s exhilarating to discover that our mission is not starting arguments or launching debates over philosophy or religion or even the Bible, but rather working with the Holy Spirit in sowing God’s Word, watering and reaping. The Boy Scout motto: “always be prepared” certainly applies to witnessing for Christ!
I. Learn To Listen With Discernment and Empathy
In beginning a verbal witness, it’s essential to learn where the person is spiritually. What spiritual influences has he had in his life? Is he an atheist or an agnostic or a theist? What does he know and believe about Christ? Does he know anything about the Gospel? Is he aware that he is a sinner? Is he convinced and convicted? Is he ready to respond in repentance and faith?
In order to make these basic evaluations we need to listen to what people are saying. Many of us are so busy thinking of what we are going to say next while someone is talking that we miss the verbal and nonverbal clues of the other person. Our most natural conversation is in response to revealed needs. People who are discerning listeners will find all the opportunities they need to witness in the natural flow of conversation with friends and loved ones.
II. Assess Where the Person Is Spiritually
A good question to ask is “What would you tell me if I came to you and said, ‘I want to go to heaven, but I don’t know how to get there. Will you please tell me what to do?’” At some point you need to discover what a person is trusting in and this question gets at that issue in a pretty unthreatening way.
Do you know the most common answer to that question? In one way or another, the person usually indicates that he/she is trusting in their good deeds to save them. This response is a clear indication that they do not understand the Good News that God accepts us by grace through faith and not by works! If they indicate that they are trusting in their works to save them, you can respond, “I have wonderful news to share with you! Would you like to hear it?”
Never take for granted that just because a person hangs around Christians that they have a clear understanding of the Gospel. The vast majority of those who are not Christians do not have a clear understanding of the Gospel. Even an off-handed remark such as “I think I have about as much chance to make it to heaven as he does,” can tell volumes about a person’s understanding of salvation.
Once you have gained a clear understanding as to where a person is at spiritually, then ask yourself, “What is the next step in the process of Christian conversion?” What is the next thing the Spirit desires to accomplish in someone?
III. Be Prepared and Ready To Respond
Once we have identified the next step, be ready to respond. Everything we do in attempting to share our faith, by whatever means, is linked to our own grasp of the central issue of the Gospel. In other words, know the core of the Gospel!
The indispensable element in any effort to bring people to the Lord is the Word of God. Personal experiences, exhibitions of Christian love, counsel, or encouragement are only subsidiaries to God speaking to people through the Scriptures. Our lives and words help demonstrate the reality of what the Bible teaches.
Commit to memory key verses and references. Be sure you understand what these verses actually mean. For example, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). These few words contain the essence of what God is communicating to men. Resident in this verse are at least four important questions:
- What does “death” actually mean? (spiritual/physical) separation from God.
- What is involved in receiving the “gift of God”? Believing in Christ (John 1:12).
- What does “eternal life” promise to those with faith? Life as God designed.
- How did “Christ” bring us eternal life? He died on the cross for our sins.
The answers to these questions can be found in related Scriptures. Spend as much time as necessary to master the simple facts of the Gospel. It’s as simple as one (plan), two (problem), three (provision), four (prayer of faith).
- God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives – John 10:10b
- We have a problem – our sin has broken that fellowship – Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23
- God’s provision – Christ’s death is God’s provision for our sin – Romans 5:8; John 3:16
- We must receive God’s provision by responding to His initiative as we repent of our sin and place our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ – Romans 10:9-10
I remember an old Greek professor who used to say that “The eternal price of knowledge is review, review, review.” That’s good advice to those who want to clearly communicate the good news of God’s saving message.
There are a number of evangelism tools available to us and there a few simple rules to guide us in the use of these helps.
- Understand where someone is coming from spiritually before you share with them. Don’t distribute literature you have not first read and others aren’t willing to read.
- Be selective in whatever you share. Share only those items which address the individual’s point of need and complement your verbal witness.
- Be sure of the message you share and speak the truth in love. You don’t want it to do more harm than good.
IV. Seek a Response If and When Appropriate
Have you ever invited a person to come and visit you and when he came to the door refused to invite him in? That’s what some Christians do in witnessing. God said you have not because you ask not (James 4:4). When you believe the timing is right, don’t be afraid to extend a personal invitation to the individual.
Of course only the Holy Spirit can convince people of their sin and their need for the Savior. We are responsible to present clear invitations for people to make definite decisions to receive Christ. So the first principle is: be clear and specific. You might say, “Have you now come to the point in your spiritual pilgrimage where you are ready to trust Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and acknowledge Him as Lord of your life?”
Offer assistance – some who are ready may still have questions regarding the specific details of asking Christ to be their Savior – things as basic as “I don’t know what to say” or “I’ve never prayed before.” Let them know you will help them.
Some will welcome a suggestion that you lead in a prayer of salvation. It should be direct, simple and explicit. Whatever words are chosen, remember your friend is essentially saying “yes” to a life transforming relationship with Jesus Christ.
You might pray something like this: “Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and that I do not deserve eternal life. But I believe you died and rose from the grave to purchase a place in heaven for me. I repent of my sins and I ask for your forgiveness. I place my trust in you alone for my salvation and I accept the free gift of eternal life. I ask you to come into my life and make me the kind of person you want me to be both now and forever. I trust you to take charge of my life and I expect to receive the power of the Holy Spirit that I might share this faith, strength, joy and love with others in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
If a person doesn’t feel comfortable praying aloud, offer him the option of praying silently. When you are finished ask, “What has God done for you?” This gives your friend a chance to give his first confession of faith and provides you an opportunity to offer some encouraging words to a new Christian. It also gives you an opportunity to provide assurance of salvation.
V. Leave the Door Open for Future Contact
Leave the door open: If an individual is not ready to place their faith in Jesus Christ, don’t push to the point of badgering him. Don’t bruise the fruit. Rather help them clarify their faith options and speak the truth in love.
Thank him for sharing, graciously end the conversation but continue to pray and continue the relationship. In other words, leave your friend with the door wide open for another day, another opportunity either with you or with some one else. While he remains on your heart and in your prayers, he is in God’s hand of ministry. Remember, while actions may speak louder than words, actions speak even louder with words. Consider this: Even the sinless Son of God, didn’t merely demonstrate His faith by His life, He declared the Good News with His lips! If this was necessary for Him, how much more is it necessary for all of us?
Ten Steps to an Effective Personal Witness
- Visualize the permanent/positive benefits of receiving Christ.
- Pray for and make an individual acquaintance.
- Establish a loving, growing “AGAPE” relationship.
- Be hospitable – Extend an invitation to your home.
- Cultivate common interests – do things together.
- Become a giver of (Grace) unconditional kindness.
- Learn to relate the Gospel to individual needs.
- Find an appropriate invitation or harvest vehicle.
- Follow up with Christian Discipleship.
- Encourage disciple to become a disciple maker.
Identifying the Process of Evangelism: From Atheism to Faith
Gift of Repentance
|Christ-like presenceEstablish loving relationships
Win the right to be heard
Share personal testimony
Proclaim the truth of the Gospel
Ethically persuade by appealing to the mind, will and emotions
Invite the response of repentance and faith
|11 Atheism – Denial of God’s existence10 Agnosticism – don’t know if God exists
9 Theism – awareness of God’s existence
8 Awareness of God’s divine attributes
7 Awareness of the person of Christ
6 Awareness of the work of Christ
5 Grasps the meaning of the good news
4 Positive attitude toward Christ and the good news
3 Awareness of need for Jesus Christ
2 Regeneration by the spirit
1 Respond in repentance/faith