I’ve heard it just once too often: “Keep the Main Thing the main thing.” And there’s the equally inane cliche: “Preach the Gospel. When necessary, use words.”
I don’t know whether to chalk it up to ignorance or confusion or just simple-minded parroting of what our mentors told us. Who decided there was a great gulf fixed between Word and Deed? Where did the idea come from that we can (or must) prioritize either Proclamation or Demonstration?
I know I’m harder on the “proclamation” crowd. Nobody really disagrees about demonstrating the love of God in the lives of those around us. Jesus ranked that mandate right up there with “Love the Lord your God.”
Where we disagree is whether demonstration is essential to our mission of making disciples. One large segment of the church community organizes around the principle that making disciples is simply “getting people saved” and then teaching them how to get other people saved. One segment of the mission community focuses almost all its energy on multiplying that strategy exponentially.
“Proclaimers” zero in on the part of the Gospel where Paul explains how the atoning death of the risen Christ reconciles us to God and enables us to receive the gift of eternal life. They agree it’s important to help others in physical distress but, to them, that’s not “Gospel.”
I’ve wasted a lot of time over the years, trying to convince those brothers and sisters they are preaching a fragmentary Gospel. Without success, as far as I can tell. An utter failure. A complete waste of time. So I’m done. I’m moving on.
The straw that broke my proverbial camel’s back this past week was when the Spirit posed a couple of questions to me:
— How does Word happen apart from Deed?
— Isn’t proclamation itself an action, a demonstration of God’s love?
I’m grateful for those whose passion is proclamation. We all should be so wholeheartedly committed to spreading the Word. But let’s quit pretending proclamation stands apart from (even above) demonstration.
Word requires Deed. You can’t proclaim without doing something, engaging in an action. And the act of proclamation is a demonstration of the love God has placed in our hearts for those broken, confused souls who have no idea what God has done to open the door so they can enter into new life in his kingdom.
Proclamation is one demonstration among many. Love your neighbor the way you love yourself. Love them enough to help them in their distress. Love them enough to speak grace and truth into their lives.
But it’s all Gospel. You can’t separate Word from Deed, any more than you could divide Christ’s deity from his humanity.
I’ve had it with the endless discussion about the proper balance of proclamation and demonstration. I’m done with arguments about Word versus Deed. I’m especially done with people who see demonstration as nothing more than a means to an end, a subversion that gains access and creates opportunities for the Main Thing. That denies the integrity of the Gospel.
When someone brings me an answer to the two questions above, I’ll be willing to reopen the discussion. But until you do, please stop pretending that proclamation has a higher priority than working for justice and righteousness.
Christ is not divided. There is only one Kingdom. The God who first loved us has told us from the beginning to love our neighbors the way we love ourselves. That’s how we make disciples: by pouring the love of Christ into their circumstances and showing them God has a better plan for our lives and communities than what we are experiencing.
Of course that requires words. Demonstrate your love for them, and for Christ, by explaining what they are seeing in your relationship.
I like what Terry Smith (cbmin.org) says: It’s not word. It’s not deed. It’s wordeed.