Paul Tatham, 56, is an author,
speaker, and educator from Royal Palm Beach, Florida. He and his wife, Susan,
have three daughters—Jennifer, Jana, and Corrie.
By Paul Tatham
Those of us who have accepted Christ as Savior
hear a lot about evangelism. We're told that one of the primary reasons we have
been left on earth, following our conversion, is to win others to Christ.
We go about that divine task in a two-fold
manner. First, by living a life that is exemplary and, second, by actually
verbalizing our faith. The object of the first is to live our life in such a
way that onlookers will be intrigued enough to ask what makes us different.
That, in turn, should segue into an opportunity to present the gospel—how
Christ has paid for our sins on the cross, thus paving the way for His free
offer of eternal life for all those who merely ask.
But I've been concerned, over the years, with
the growing number of born-again believers who faithfully fulfill part A but
woefully neglect part B. When asked what their game plan is for reaching their
Hell-bound neighbors and colleagues for Christ, their response is
often,"Well, I'm living the life." A few of us may even be bold
enough to drop a passing word for the Lord now and then ("my son survived
the accident by the grace of God"). But basically the crux of our plan
consists of being such a nice person that one day, hopefully, that unsaved
friend will pop the $64,000 question: "You're such a nice person. How can
I be like you?"
But there's a problem with such a plan: you
could be waiting a long time. And, in the meantime, the clock is ticking on all
those other associates who, too, think you are someone special but aren't quite
stirred enough to ask why.
The greater need today is for Christians who
will speak their faith, not just live it. Notice, by the way, that I said
greater need, not greater in importance. Of course living the life is of vital
importance, for if one is all talk, and no walk, then his message will carry
Actually, for many of us, living the life is
easier than talking about it. That's because when we met Jesus, the Holy Spirit
took up residence in our lives and completely changed our worldly appetites. We
no longer serve Satan, nor are we as drawn by what he has to offer. Through
little effort on our part, we've become a better person.
But telling others about that transformation
doesn't come as readily. For some reason, spiritual lockjaw sets in. So we
sheepishly hide behind the lure of our lifestyle, praying for the occasional
But is "living the life" really
enough? Will my lifestyle, alone, actually be potent enough to evoke the
all-important query, "What makes you different?" Well, to be honest,
I've never experienced it. And I've known Christ almost 50 years. I don't smoke
or drink or cuss or chew, and people tell me I'm generally a nice guy, but the
point is I'm still waiting.
But never mind me. Probably others, more
godly, will have stories to tell. Over the years, I've taken an informal poll
of believers I consider far more Christlike than I. Surely they've been asked
many times. But, sadly, I've found that their record isn't much better than
mine. The conclusion: if these super saints can't elicit an inquiry, what
chance do I have?
The walk, alone, won't cut it. Period. It must
be coupled with the talk. Most unsaved folk will size you up as simply "a
nice guy," and leave it at that, never realizing Who made you that way.
Let me go further out on a limb and make a
bold claim: we need to talk our faith because if we don't explain the
gospel—literally the "good news"—few will figure it out
on their own. After all, most lost people have had little exposure to God's
simple plan of salvation and, therefore, picture the final judgment as a great
celestial weigh-in. If our good works outweigh our bad works, we're in. If I
didn't know better, that would sound reasonable to me too. Or, perhaps, simply
looking around at nature and concluding that there must be a Creator (capital
C) behind it all. Many settle for mere recognition of a Supreme Being. All
plausible, but all wrong. The good news takes a little explaining before most
folk can get a handle on it.
That's why Romans 10:14 asks the provocative
question, "How shall they believe in Him in whom they have not
heard?" It takes a messenger—a Christian bold enough to put his
mouth where his lifestyle is.
During World War II, a common poster seen
around army and naval bases cautioned servicemen that "loose lips lose
lives." The intent, of course, was to warn soldiers and sailors that
discussing war-related plans with strangers could be used against them. Perhaps
Christians today need a newer version of the same poster: "loose lips save
lives." Those bold enough to speak up are more likely to be the ones who
will rescue lives from eternal death.