There’s a reason we used to do ‘Show and Tell’ in school growing up. One without the other is incomplete. The audience will be left wanting, and we’ll be scratching our heads wondering why they didn’t quite understand.
Biblical evangelism is about showing and telling the gospel whenever possible. In the context of relationships with people to whom we have regular touch points, evangelism is not an either/or proposition – rather it’s a both/and endeavor. And when we take time to both demonstrate and proclaim God’s love in our relationships, we’ll make the greatest impact for Jesus. In simplest terms, when you can demonstrate love in your witness, do!
I should clarify at the beginning that people can and do receive the Lord all the time through the proclamation of the gospel, apart from the demonstration of God’s love. Because “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). I’ve led people to the Lord on many occasions through simply sharing God’s plan of salvation in words and seeing people respond in faith.
On the other hand, while good deeds can get people’s attention like few words can, good deeds alone will not lead a person to faith in Christ. So it’s important to not mistake good deeds for good news.
For our purposes I want to use the terms demonstration (show) and proclamation (tell) in order to amplify our understanding. Jesus is our example, for His life was and is the epitome of a witness for God, for He is God’s Son!
In Matthew 4:23, “Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.”
And in John 6:1-14 He fed the 5000 – then proceeded to tell them in John 6:35, “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”
When He sent out the disciples for the first time in Luke 10 His commission included both demonstration and proclamation, as He commanded them in verse 9 to “heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”
And we get the point. A complete gospel witness includes the two pillars of proclamation and demonstration. Without the presence of both in our personal relationships, note what’s lacking:
Proclamation without demonstration lacks authentication. THIS IS TRUTH WITHOUT LOVE!
If I tell you about God’s love found in Christ and then proceed not to love you, my testimony is weak, and you may think me a hypocrite. Often, we as believers can be accused of being hypocrites and of pounding others with our ‘rightness.’ Being an effective witness for Jesus means I back up the proclamation of truth with the demonstration of truth. If God is love, and it is HE I proclaim, I need to take the initiative to authenticate the claims of the Savior by loving others in deed.
A couple of years ago I was witnessing to a friend I’ll call Tim. He was not a believer. In fact, he was very cynical about the Christian faith. As we watched ball games at a sports bar or enjoyed a cup of coffee, we also conversed about many things, including spiritual matters. One day, Tim said to me, “Larry, I appreciate your witnessing to me. Most Christians I’ve come across have either asked me for money or stabbed me in the back. You’re not like that.” Ouch!
His comment was telling and sad. He’d been burned. Obviously, he needed to see and experience more of God’s love in God’s people and not just hear about it from them.
Demonstration without proclamation lacks an explanation. THIS IS LOVE WITHOUT TRUTH!
Some people think, “We just need to ‘love’ people into the kingdom” by doing good works. Well guess what – if they don’t know why you do what you do they’ll be “in the dark” regarding your motivation. For example, people help others across busy streets all the time. One person, who thinks himself a good person, helps an elderly person across the street because it’s not only a good thing to do, but it makes him look good. This person may not know Christ. In fact, there are many people and human agencies who do great works in the name of humanity, compassion, self-glory, or in the spirit of “it’s just the right thing to do.”
On the other hand, Jesus said, “I have not come to be served but to serve and give…” This is why we love in deed, and at the end of the day it’s about Jesus’ glory, not my glory or the glory of man. For man is not inherently good, and life is not about man’s glory, it’s about God’s glory. If a person is starving, and I give them physical bread today, yet they die tomorrow without hearing about the Bread of Life, Jesus, what have I given them?
When we seek to be salt and light in our world, keeping these two pillars in perspective will help shape our gospel testimony. Each of us is inclined to lean one way or the other – telling them the way it is or simply loving them into the kingdom, but a powerful testimony is a both/and proposition.
Where do you lean? How is God wanting you to grow in one area or another? How can you practically apply what He’s showing you in your daily life? These are good questions to take before the Lord as we seek to be the witness for Jesus He desires for us and from us.
So go out in the power of the Holy Spirit and show and tell of God’s great love and good news found in Jesus – to the glory of God and for the building of His Kingdom!