There is a statement floating around in mission circles that has been attributed to St. Francis. Likely he never said it, but lots of people like to repeat it. It goes: "Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary."
This statement has then been used as a good excuse not to use words in verbal witness. A closer look at the data, however, would suggest that Paul and the apostles would have said, "Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words and use your life."
In the attached document I examine the English translations of the Greek words that the Gospel writer Luke used to describe verbal communication.
After you have read through the list, consider the following questions:
- Dialogue has become a fashionable word in the news lately. You can read about Pope Francis going to UAE and Morocco to engage in ‘dialogue.’ When you look at all of the verbs used, how much emphasis does the Gospel writer place on it? How would he rank it beside ‘speaking boldly’ for example?
- At times in Christian circles, preaching and proclaiming is pitted against what seems to be a more cerebral exercise of defending, debating, and proving. How would you reconcile all of them? Or is it possible?
- After you examined all of the verbs, were you challenged? If so, how? Did you get the idea that the early church was more about speech that was pleasant at all times or did you get the idea that it might have been something else?