Preach the gospel at all times; use words if necessary

Hi all,

I was interested in people’s thoughts about this meme that I’ve seen floating around online sometimes:

“Preach the gospel at all times; use words if necessary”.

It seems to be often attributed to Francis of Assisi although this article, FactChecker: Misquoting Francis of Assisi refutes this idea.

I like the idea it conveys that our whole lives should reflect the gospel of Christ to those around us. If our lives don’t match up to our words, then the message will be severely compromised. Our lives must bear visible fruit of the work that Jesus has done and the transformation within us.

However, this statement also suggest that words are not essential, that the gospel of Christ can somehow be fully conveyed without words. I disagree with this sentiment because whilst our lives do bear witness, I’m not sure we can convey the need for repentance and salvation without words.

I also feel this undermines the importance of scripture as The Word, which is part of our spiritual armour (Ephesians 6:17). Peter and the apostles made words a priority in their evangelism in Acts. He even emphasises the need for his words:

Fellow Jews and all you residents of Jerusalem, let me explain this to you and pay attention to my words. (Acts 2:14)

In 1 Peter 2:9, Peter reminds us of our status in Christ as a royal priesthood, chosen race and holy nation,

so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness.

I’m not sure we can adequately proclaim the praises of God without words.

This meme might be really helpful on broadening our expectations on sharing the gospel, but could also diminish some essential tools in communicating the gospel clearly.

What do others think?


Hi @alison,

I like this quote because it emphasizes integrity.

If our lives don’t preach the gospel, then what good are our words? They’ll be empty and hypocritical.

However, I think it is unhelpful because it makes it sound like words might not be necessary very often. And that seems silly. Of course, we talk about what we love, enjoy, and find important.

Why would we not use words to share our love for Jesus and our love for others?

So, I would reword it to something like,

“Live the gospel and speak with love.”

This way also takes away the word “preach”, which can communicate being preachy.

It also removes the either-or tension of the original saying. Instead, why not emphasize both deeds and words as part of a whole life?

What do you think?


I have said this many times , and I agree with you that words are necessary, Rom 9:14- 17.

But having said that I can’t help but think there will be a time when:

23 Thus says Yahweh of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from ⌊the nations of every language⌋ will take hold of the hem of a Judean man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you!” ’ ” (Zec 8:23). LEB

Another point that I find that would support the statement below.

When I think of the law written in stone versus the law written on our hearts. The written law must be ingested repeatedly. The law written on the heart can be observed .


Hi @Carson and @jimmy thank you, I really appreciated both your perspectives and agree there’s some value in this sentiment but it should not be the sum of how we preach the gospel. Above, I quoted 1 Peter:

which emphasises the need for words and language. However, I noticed that just a few verses on, Peter also writes this:

Conduct yourselves honourably among the Gentiles, so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day he visits. (1 Pet 2:12)

Both verses illustrate the roles of proclaiming praises which can only be done fully through our mouths, and demonstrating our good works through action as a combined force of preaching the Gospel.

Great rewording!