Monday, January 26, 2009

“Preaching” the Gospel – the Practical Way

Attending a 21st birthday is always a treasured experience. There’s always a sense of enthusiastic youthfulness that accompanies the mood at such a traditional coming-of-age celebration. The twenty first I attended today however, describes an organisation, not a person, and the actual birth date of the organisation--a radio station--could have been thirty years previously. That’s certainly when the beginning foundations were laid.

One of the key messages out of this particular celebration is the practical mission of 98.5 Sonshine FM.

General Manager, Barry Grosser, quoted some early criticism from dissonant supporters of the station who wanted the gospel “preached,” and who said, “You’re not preaching the gospel,” to which Barry replied, “You’re right... we’re living it; that’s a fraction harder.”

It called me back to the following words:

“Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”
Saint Francis of Assisi (allegedly).[1]

The obvious meaning is preaching the gospel, most of the time, has nothing to do with words. Gospel meaning is translated in action (love being a verb) far more powerfully than words.

In fact, words (alone) most often destroy the gospel meaning. People who preach using only words i.e. without the gospel permeating their values, character and actions, stifle God’s work in their hypocrisy. Jesus constantly called the Pharisees on this.

Perhaps the Peace Prayer traditionally attributed to St. Francis accurately epitomises the spirit of preaching the gospel in the practical sense; in a sense that every single person in the world can relate with:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

Actually preaching the gospel via our action can often lead God to a coup in the spirit of a person who’s lost their way, and if not, they can only remain open to the Spirit where love and peace saturate the relationship.

‘Preaching the gospel’ is an errant and overrated term in its traditional context. Thinking about it, preaching via our actions and not our words is worlds harder to achieve than simply spruiking, because it requires a honed character capable of systematic submission to God to achieve it.

Thank God Sonshine FM and their Careline have got it right over the years. They certainly played their part to get this particular ‘little black duck’ over the line in their transforming ministry of love. For that, I will forever be grateful to God for them.

Not preaching the gospel, indeed!?

[1] The following site cites reason for doubting St. Francis actually said this: - apparently it is not in his writings. However, he had been known to say to his Friars (who were without proper instruction on how to preach), “Let all the brothers, however, preach by their deeds.”

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