Always Be Prepared

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15)

When we hear the word "evangelism," we often think of things like knocking doors, gospel meetings, filmstrip lessons, and other evangelism tools. Michael Green, author of the book Evangelism Through the Local Church, suggests that the early church grew because its members "gossiped the gospel." Jesus was the topic of their daily conversations with people because they were convinced that everyone needed to know Jesus. Whatever tool the church uses in evangelism, there is no replacement for "regular Christians" who simply talk to people about Jesus.

Peter tells us in today's reading to "always be prepared to give an answer." The word "answer" or "defense" (NASB) is the Greek word apología from which we get the word "apologetics." Paul used this word when he made his defense before the Jews in Jerusalem (Acts 22:1) and King Agrippa in Caesarea (Acts 25:16). To give an apologı́a means simply to give reasons why you believe in Jesus and live your life for Him. In the text above, Peter says that the first step in this process is to "in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord." Before you can share why Christ is the center of your life, He must be the center of your life.

But I have quoted only part of the text. The missing key in evangelism may be what follows in verses 16 and 17-

But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

How we share our faith ("gentleness and respect") is important; so is how we live our lives. We must speak a good word for Jesus; evangelism always gets around to words. But the context of our words is a joyful and holy life that affirms that what we believe works. The Christian who is bitter, negative, fault-finding and joyless will not be evangelistic. Neither will the negative, joyless, fault-finding church. May God help us to set apart Christ in our hearts and live joyful and hopeful lives for Him. And may He help us be better "gossips of the gospel."