“Christians are to be the good news before they share the good news,” opined Jospeh Aldrich in his book Lifestyle Evangelism.
Aldrich’s observation reminds me of a quote credited to Francis of Assisi who said, “Always preach the Gospel, and when necessary, use words.”
Both ideas suggest that evangelism is more than just a Monday night event. More than joining an outreach group. More than giving away free Bibles at Starbucks. More than going door to door to find prospects.
Effective evangelism involves living a committed, consecrated, Christian life 24/7.
Our text today speaks of this kind of evangelistic outreach.
Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Col. 4:5-6).
Paul provides three important points for us to consider in our interaction with non-Christians.
#1 Walk in wisdom.
Wisdom allows us to use in the best possible way the knowledge we possess. We should not act with an air of superiority, or self-righteousness. We must remember that we’re not perfect, but we are pardoned. Our friends, neighbors, and relatives need to see someone who’s real. Transparent. And living a life of integrity.
One translation renders this “behave yourselves.” This involves being honest. Paying your bills. Keeping your promises. Obeying the law. Working hard. Treating people kindly. Showing compassion. And practicing what you profess.
#2 Be alert to opportunities.
Various versions translate this as “redeeming the time.” Or “make the best use of your time.” Or “make the most of every opportunity.”
Not everyone is interested in hearing the gospel or talking to you about Jesus. Realize it can be a waste of time to push the issue. Jesus even warned about “casting your pearls before swine” (Matt. 7:6). Furthermore, people are completed turned off from the gospel because of a Christian who’s pushy, brash, and obnoxious. Timing is everything. And not everyone’s time is now.
On the other hand, be aware of signs that signal someone is open to a spiritual discussion. Maybe they’re wearing a cross or a T-shirt with a religious slogan. They may mention something about God, Jesus or the Bible. Or they may express interest in your faith or religious affiliation. See these as opportunities. And make the most of them.
#3 Employ gracious speech.
Gracious speech both glorifies God and “ministers grace unto the hearers” (Eph. 4:29). Unkind, cruel, and harsh words that hurt others undermine your influence. Even when others accuse us unfairly, question our motives, or misrepresent our position, we must learn to respond, not react. To “speak the Truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).
Speech seasoned with salt purifies, preserves, and adds the right flavor to the conversation. Speaking in a crude or coarse manner will quickly alienate any potential prospect for the gospel. As C. F. D. Moule says, this is “a warning not to confuse loyal godliness with graceless insipidity.
William Barclay went so far as to write, “The Christian must have charm and wit in his speech so that he may know how to give the right answer in every case.” That requires a great deal of thought, effort, and self-discipline. But the closer we can come to this ideal, the more effective our outreach efforts will be.
Finally, Warren Wiersbe summarized this text with this challenge and encouraging aim. “The Christian’s walk and talk must be in harmony with each other. Nothing will silence the lips like a careless life. When character, conduct, and conversation are all working together, it makes for a powerful witness.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman