How Can We Witness Without Words?

Last updated on September 11, 2023

In the article How can I spread the Gospel in the Millennial Age? we examine various ways that Christians can share the Gospel with others. Sharing the Gospel to “make disciples of all nations” is what Jesus commanded His followers in Matthew 28:19. This verse is known as the Great Commission and Christians today are called to spread the Gospel just as the disciples did in their day. Since hearing the Word is key to finding faith (Romans 10:14), it follows that we must speak the Word to others. But what if words don’t come easily to us? What if we lack boldness to speak to others about the Gospel? What if the people we are trying to reach do not want to hear?

1. Words can be difficult…

Many of us find it difficult to share the Gospel especially if other people show no interest in discussing faith matters. Our inability to share our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, even with people we love, can be a real struggle. We mustn’t feel ashamed, though, as we are in good company. The great Apostle Paul, writer of most of the New Testament, said of himself that he was “unskilled in speaking” (2 Corinthians 11:6). And Moses, writer of the first five books of the Old Testament, exclaimed: “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since You have spoken to Your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue” (Exodus 4:10). In fact, Moses even tried to avoid the job God was asking him to do.

2. … but God does help!

God helped Moses by appointing Moses’ brother Aaron as his official spokesperson. In the context of standing trial and witnessing to their beliefs, Jesus comforted His disciples with the following: “Do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:11). “Lord, give me the right words,” is an excellent prayer to pray, when faced with a difficult conversation. Sometimes, the Lord may even reassure us that our silence may be better than words. We can always ask Him for wisdom! (James 1:5)

But whether ‘in addition to words’, or ‘instead of words’, we always and also have the option of witnessing without them.

3. Witnessing with actions rather than words

A quotation often (but, it seems, erroneously!) attributed to St. Francis of Assisi is, “Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” This thought-provoking recommendation provides a catchphrase that emphasizes the importance of showing Jesus’ love to people. Words, according to the quotation, are not always necessary.

Jesus’ love is the essence of His ministry; it made Him sacrifice an earthly existence for us (John 3:16). If we can witness to others by consistently showing compassion and selfless behavior, by being the first to forgive, offering companionship, and being “slow to anger” (James 1:19), we can cause others to consider the Source of our actions – even if we do not use words. Moreover, as Jesus says in Matthew 25:40, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.” If our actions benefit others, we have shown them the love of Jesus.

To witness without words, allow the Holy Spirit to guide your actions. In Galatians 5:22-23, the “fruit of the Spirit” is described as, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control. The world doesn’t have the Spirit and can only attempt to resemble His fruit. This makes consistently treating others in a loving, joyful, calm, kind and gentle way, the perfect method of ‘witnessing in action’. Whether we reach out to help someone, or simply remain calm when others upset us or are unfriendly, we always have a choice to “in humility, count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3) and be ‘the good Samaritan’.

4. Can actions replace words?

The Apostle Peter believed in the importance of setting a good Biblical example with actions. In 1 Peter 3:1-2, he addresses a female audience with non-believing husbands. He encourages the wives to opt for a “respectful and pure conduct” towards these husbands, “so that even if some do not obey the Word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” Peter’s advice suggests that actions can speak louder than words – and the advantage of actions is that they are much less likely to cause an argument!

5. How effective can witnessing without words be?

Even if we do find ourselves in a debate with someone or, worse, a conflict, kind actions can be a testimony. Consider Romans 12:20-21, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” It is understandable to be nervous about witnessing with words, because if we can’t explain in words what Jesus Christ did for us – that He redeemed us by atoning for our sins on the cross – our message to others will not be fully effective.
But we can pray, and we have Jesus, “the Founder and Perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) So, if we can deliver only half the message, we can always pray that God will send someone or indeed the Holy Spirit, to ‘grow the seed’ that we planted.

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