At our Sunday morning gathering we were discussing some of the implications of our Bible teaching together and someone quoted the phrase ‘Preach the gospel; use words if necessary.’ (attributed to Francis of Assisi I believe)
We noted at the time that though our good deeds may gain us a hearing, there is always a need for words too. I have just begin ploughing through Keller’s magnum opus Center Church
and spotted today his own critique of that phrase which is typically concise and insightful and much more use than my own…
The popular saying “Preach the gospel; use words if necessary” is helpful but also misleading. If the gospel were primarily about what we must do to be saved, it could be communicated as well by action (to be imitated) as by words. But if the gospel is priarily about what God has done to save us, and how we can receive it through faith, it can only be expressed through words. Faith cannot come without hearing. This is why we read in Galatians 2:5 that heresy endangers the truth of the gospel, and why Philippians 1:16 declares that a person’s mind must be persuaded of the truth of the gospel. Ephesians 1:13 also asserts that the gospel is the word of truth. Ephesians 6:19 and Colossians 1:23 teach that we advance the gospel through verbal communication, particularly preaching.”
Center Church, 32.