Saint Francis . . . A Sissy? by Ray Comfort

August 16th, 2007 | 22 Comments | Church Issues, Evangelism, General Topics Saint Francis . . . A Sissy? by Ray Comfort |  Facebook

One hundred and fifty thousand children had been on the brink of starving to death, but thanks to the kind gift of a very generous billionaire, every child now had enough food to keep him alive. That gift had arrived in the form of one big check. The horror was now over. It was finished. It was just a matter of distributing the food using the few relief workers we had. Without them to get the food to the children, there would have been many more deaths.

Some days later, a frantic worker burst into the camp and cried, “Some of the relief workers have stopped distributing food. Masses of children are dying!”

Why would the workers stop when there was plenty of food? It didn’t make sense. The distraught man said, “It’s because one of them held up a sign that said, ‘Feed the starving children. Where necessary, use food.’ That has caused some of the workers to simply befriend the starving children without giving them food. It’s insane!”

The first time I ever heard of Saint Francis of Assisi was back in 1965. It was during the surf movie “The Endless Summer.” Four surfers who were chasing the sun discovered the perfect wave, at a place in South Africa called “Cape Saint Francis.” The sight of the perfect wave excited me beyond words.

The Unspeakable Gift

The next time I heard of him was when I heard that he said “Preach the Gospel at all times. Where necessary, use words.” That statement upset me beyond words, because it was a philosophy that I knew sounded deeply spiritual . . . to those who were spiritually shallow. It made as much sense as “Feed starving children. Where necessary, use food.”

On 16 July 1228 Francis of Assisi was pronounced a saint by Pope Gregory IX. That’s a long time ago, so it’s a little late for questions, but if I could I would like to find out why anyone would say such a strange thing? Was it because he was fearful to use actual words to preach the truth of the Gospel? Or was it because he thought that people would see that he had good works and hear the message of salvation without a preacher, something contrary to Scripture’s “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).

Whatever the case, 800 years since Francis we have many who profess faith in Jesus, and are no doubt using this popular philosophy to justify being speechless. To them salvation truly is an “unspeakable” gift.

Recently someone told me about a conference where 100,000 Christians gathered to worship God. When I asked if they were exhorted to go out and preach the Gospel to every creature, it was no surprise to me that they weren’t. Instead, they were exhorted to live a life of worship. Again, that sounds spiritual, but you can’t worship God without obedience to His Word, and His Word commands us to preach the Gospel to every creature.

I regularly meet those who think they can obey the Great Commission without using words. When they hear the Gospel preached that are usually offended and say things like, “I appreciate what you are saying, but I don’t like the way you are saying it.” With a little probing, they are the relationship folks, who think preaching the Gospel means building relationships with the lost, and never mentioning words like “sin,” “Hell,” and “Judgment Day.” They think that real love is to withhold the Bread of life from those that are starving to death. Remember that Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38, italics added).

According to the dictionary, a “sissy” is “a timid or cowardly person.” From what I understand of Saint Francis, he was no sissy. He was a loving man who was not afraid to use words when he preached. He wasn’t frightened to preach repentance to a sinful world. However, there have been times when I could have been called that name. I have felt the grip of fear and have wanted to drop words such as sin, Hell, repentance and Judgment Day when I have preached to sinners. I don’t want to come across as being unloving or judgmental, but I fear God more than I fear man. So when God’s Word tells me to use words, I use words, despite the consequences.

Listen to the Apostle Paul’s sobering warning to his hearers: “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20: 26-27). Perhaps he spoke about being free from their blood because he was familiar with God Himself warning Ezekiel of his responsibility to warn his generation: “When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.” (Ezekiel 3:18, italics added).

When someone thinks that they can feed starving children and not use food, that’s their business. But when their philosophy spreads throughout the camp, it becomes an unspeakable tragedy. If we become passive about the Great Commission because we are more concerned about ourselves than the eternal well-being of others, we may be able to hide our motives from man, but not from God. He warns, “Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Surely we did not know this,’ does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?” (Proverbs 24:11-12).

There’s an interesting irony to this story. After a little research I came across a quote about the famous saying. It is from someone who had been a Franciscan monk for 28 years–and had earned an M.A. in Franciscan studies. He co ntacted some of the most eminent Franciscan scholars in the world to try and verify the saying. He said, “It is clearly not in any of Francis’ writings. After a couple weeks of searching, no scholar could find this quote in a story written within 200 years of Francis’ death.” (1.)

So if it wasn’t Saint Francis who said not to use words, who was it? Who is it that would like to see the truth of the Gospel hindered from being preached to every creature? That doesn’t need to be answered.

The time is short. The laborers are few. Please, cast off your fears and equip yourself to preach the Gospel with words. They are necessary.
______________________
(1.) www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Oct2001/Wiseman.asp

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22 Responses to “Saint Francis . . . A Sissy? by Ray Comfort”

  1. jon zebedee says:

    equating “food” to “words/ideas/beliefs” is too narrow of an analogy. and you totally miss the point of assisi’s quote. and based on what i’ve read and heard from you…it would be a waste of time to actually further respond. my hope is that less people find your specific brand of faith appealing.

  2. And our response to the emerging new evangelicalism would be our prayer “is that less people find your specific brand of [pseudo-Christian] faith appealing.” To preach the Gospel by lifestyle is indistinguishable from government social workers, the non-Christian cults and false world religions who also can point to exemplary human works.

    It is our message, in Words spoken by God Himself, that shows the world the difference.And keep in mind that it was the LORD God Almighty Himself that decided to save people through the “foolishness” of preaching. The word means to “proclaim” verbally.

  3. Chris L says:

    Ken,

    Maybe it would be best if you actually KNEW the scripture and quoted it in context. It is not the “foolishness of preaching” – it was the “foolishness” of the message that was preached. But don’t take my word for it:

    For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 1 Corinthians 1:21

    It’s basic scholarship 101 in interpreting scripture, Ken, and it makes one wonder if the SBC has taken to handing out pastorships in the bottom of cereal boxes that you and so many of your sliced bretheren continually misinterpret this scripture…

    Preaching the word through relationships and lifestyle is far more than government social work (which only exists because the church has dropped the ball), but it is a whole lot more challenging than hawking the equivalent of eternal fire insurance on a street corner…

  4. Chris, it does say “by the foolishness of preaching” kērugma meaning “proclaim”. Thayer Greek Dictionary: “proclaimed by a herald or public crier, a proclamation by herald.”

    Too many people think living a Christian lifestyle or doing good deeds is an equal substitute for preaching the gospel. This is a cowards attempt to justify being silent. First of all, a righteous lifestyle and good works are a result of salvation and come naturally from a believer. If you’re going out of your way or acting out of character to be kind or loving, you’re lost. In the end all you are doing is removing the only weapon we’ve been given to fight the enemy, the Sword of the Spirit, which is the WORD of God, and the power of God unto salvation. Why do you suppose the we are warned of persecution and hatred for the sake of Christ? Not because we do things the world thinks are nice, but because we say things the world hates!

  5. [...] Here is an example of twisted orthopraxy in relation to following what Jesus taught in terms of the [...]

  6. Ivan says:

    To be fair, it is most likely that Ken was simply accurately quoting the text of the King James Version of the Bible, which reads “…it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” The “preaching” in this text is suppose to be understood as a noun and not confused with a verb, though it is understandable that someone could get them confused. Nevertheless, correctly understood as a noun it conveys the precise meaning of a “preached message” or “proclamation”. What’s more it seems clear from Ken’s mention of the word “message” that, though he didn’t use it in his precise quotation, he clearly understood it to convey this meaning. Ironically, the selected wording “of preaching” (as a genitive noun) is actually closer to what the New Testament literally says in the Biblical Greek through the specific inflection, “kerugmatos”. This is reflected in such literal translations by the “foolishness of the preaching” rendering of Young’s Literal Translation, and “foolishness of preaching” rendering of The Interlinear Bible.
    In light of the above, it seems the first charge of misquoting the Biblical text was mistakenly applied.

    It should be clear that the article does not at all condemn caring for people materially, and Ray Comfort’s life demonstrates his zeal for compassion and care; but rather the article emphasizes the importance that the Biblical gospel message is also preached. As a pastor who cares for and has been involved in the discipleship of several people, it would I’m sure be most agreeable with Ken also that we should preach the word and establish good relationships and I suppose to assume otherwise would be more than misapplied. And of course there is nowhere specifically stated that street preaching on a street corner is the only time and place to preach the word. The point is rather to make sure that in whatever setting, the message – the gospel of Jesus, is actually being preached.

    The words “message” and the “preaching” cannot be strictly separated or over emphasized one over the other. Linguistically, “kerugma” means the “proclamation of a herald”, and so that establishes the very character of the message as one of proclamation.

    The contextual “proclaimed message” of verse 21, is specifically the proclaiming of the gospel of verse 17, described as “the word of the cross” in verse 18 for a people with a need of “being saved”, and described as the proclamation of “Christ crucified” in verse 23.

    He died for our sins to save us; for as sinners we need saving.
    Thanks be to God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

  7. The problem with pedantic posers as Christian teachers like Chris Lyons is they are so enamored with each other that they are always learning and never able to come to an understanding of the Truth.

    My point is very simple, and if I had wanted to quote said verse I would have, an infinite God choosing to make His salvation known through the preaching of finite men is “foolishness” to the erudite elite, well, like Lyons.

    He studies and takes his shots but he just doesn’t learn. :-)

  8. Chris L says:

    It is not that sharing the gospel has no place, it is that it is not the only thing. Methods which share the gospel and ignore the need for relationship are just as troublesome as ones which are all relationship without ever sharing the gospel. One is annoying and the other is lazy.

    To quote E. Stanley Jones

    An individual gospel without a social gospel is a soul without a body and a social gospel without an individual gospel is a body without a soul. One is a ghost and the other a corpse.

    Too many people I know who herald Ray’s method (The Way of the Master) view it as the only way of evangelism, which is what the article above seems to imply…

    As for listening to folks like Silva, I tend to agree with David Aikman’s Christianity Today assessment in avoiding the self-appointed, un-Christlike “attack dogs” of the internet. In other words, I ascribe to Jesus’ discernment, not Ken’s…

  9. “David Aikman’s Christianity Today assessment in avoiding the self-appointed, un-Christlike “attack dogs” of the internet.”

    Like shooting fish in a barrel. Let’s ask ourselves a couple of salient questions. Hmm, and just what was Mr. Aikman doing when he felt he had to “dog” me? O and we might contemplate this: Just who is it that appointed Mr. Aikman who, ever so humbly of course, is apparently more Christlike than me.

    I’m really wondering if these guys really this spiritually obtuse.

  10. Chris L says:

    Just who is it that appointed Mr. Aikman who, ever so humbly of course, is apparently more Christlike than me.

    Well, at least we agree on something.

    As for your question, I assume that it was the editors who appointed him to make an assessment of the situation, and that the answer to the question was rather as obvious to him as it was to many others, as well…

  11. Kevin says:

    Another potentially-enlightening discussion derailed…

  12. bebereans says:

    I don’t see how anyone can have a problem with this article. Unless it’s someone that doesn’t believe in sharing the gospel (in words) with people around them. Too many Christians these days are not.

    “I regularly meet those who think they can obey the Great Commission without using words. When they hear the Gospel preached that are usually offended and say things like, “I appreciate what you are saying, but I don’t like the way you are saying it.” With a little probing, they are the relationship folks, who think preaching the Gospel means building relationships with the lost, and never mentioning words like “sin,” “Hell,” and “Judgment Day.” They think that real love is to withhold the Bread of life from those that are starving to death. Remember that Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38, italics added).”

    So true.

  13. Jane Kramer says:

    I have heard this cliche, “Preach the Gospel at all times, where necessary use words, ”
    so many times! The fearful, timid side of me likes this sentence. It’s easy for me to form relationships with non-believers, love them and have them love and accept me back. It feels good to my ego. I have found that the longer I know an unbeliever and the closer I get to them, the more reluctant I am to share the real gospel (verbally) with them because I fear putting that relationship at risk. I have been guilty of this many times. I am struggling with this even now as I write this.
    My point is this: I have non-believing friends who are just as kind and loving, sometimes even more so, than Christians I know. One might even think they were Christians if they didn’t know them well. Are they then “preaching the Gospel” in their unbelief when they love and do “good” works? What sets us apart as Christians is not only our good works and love for the brethren, but our proclamation of the glorious Gospel in its entirety.
    Pray that the Lord opens my mouth for Him in season and out of season, no matter what the cost.

  14. It’s called the good news because it is the power of God unto salvation to those who believe. The Word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions oft he heart. But no one is going to call on him whom they do not believe. And no one is going to believe on him whom they have not heard. And no one is going to hear about him if no one preaches. It’s greater than a cure for death, and you’d rather play charades than tell people about it? It’s as though you see an amazing event take place and when you get home you want to tell your family, but rather than using plain words, you act it out for the next two weeks and hope they catch on. It’s just nonsense.

    “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20) “If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9)

    Jane, very well said! I agree.

  15. Kathy says:

    Now that everyone is all worked up, and full of energy :
    “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15
    That is what the Risen Lord told the disciples to do.

  16. louie louie says:

    Around Christmas time, I remember going to a foster care home run by the county that I live in. Our group was made up of college students and we didn’t have much money but we decided to buy some presents for the children there. When we arrived we found out (from the children) that another group (of non-christians) had been there the day before. The children received televisions, computers, ipods, x-boxes etc. etc. Our presents now seemed rather cheap and stupid. If we were to look just at our ‘actions’ then obviously the non-christian group would have had more influence on the youth that were in the home.
    If people are to pick a religion based on who’s nicer to them, then the Mormons will win the world in no time. (Even emergents aren’t nicer than the Mormons) So my emergent friends, if you want to lose out to religions that are ‘nicer’ than Christianity then be my guest. However, if you want to win people to Christ, then you must preach the gospel.
    I thank God that I had the opportunity to preach the gospel to the young people in that home. Now they know that God’s wrath is abiding upon them, and they now know that He made a way for them to be forgiven. Now they get to choose not based on who’s nicer, but who can save their soul.

  17. louie louie, thank you! That is a great example. The unbelievers may have given them televisions, computers, ipods, xboxes and other expensive gifts, but you gave them the priceless pearls of the gospel.

    Great work! :)

  18. Ivan,

    Thank you. I agree with your assessment above.

    louie louie,

    Amen. This is what we should do and what I was also talking about.

    Ben,

    Thank you for your concern and cover fire my brother! :-)

  19. AJ says:

    Hey Ben,

    I just wanted to say, after reading Jeremiah 20:9 that you posted a few comments up, that this verse hit me like lightning and describes EXACTLY what I feel everyday being around anybody. His Word never leaves my mind, and is exactly like a fire in my bones. Wow, God is amazing, and more and more everyday I see the infallibility and divine inspiration of His Word becoming more of a reality…praise His Holy Name all you saints!

    AJ

  20. Loretta says:

    I was raised in a Franciscan parish, and was a disciple of St. Francis, until I was converted and saved by the Lord Jesus. During those Franciscan years(unconverted), I believed that being good and doing good works conveyed to the world the message of Christianity(whatever that was; love and world peace I guess).

    Here I am, 22 years later, and now the modern evangelicals are failing to use words to tell the whole gospel, for fear of man, and emergents are failing to use words altogether, in favor of symbols and icons, because it seems ‘spiritual’.

    Jesus’ command and Commission are clear, and He has not revised them. We are still to preach the gospel with words.
    http://witnessingencouragement.wordpress.com/2007/04/16/words/

  21. Ric says:

    Amen Loretta!

    We need to be more outgoing!

    Great blog you have there too!


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