Spiritual Practice


Sally Chambers

franklin tennessee post office - downtown franklinFive Points is a major thoroughfare. If you want to be visible, Five Points is a good place to be. One day, a man with a sign stood at the intersection. The sign asked drivers to honk if they loved Jesus. I confess that I laughed at the man’s approach to faith talk. His style wasn’t mine; but if it reached one passerby, maybe it wasn’t so bad.



Think about how you talk faith. What’s your style? Would you paint the church van windows with statements of faith? Would you make bold proclamations during classroom debates about ethics? Would you take the approach attributed to St. Francis: “Preach the gospel always; use words if necessary”? Would you follow the apostle Paul’s example and send letters and cards?

Expressing our faith in words might be the hardest part of living life with God. When do we remain quiet and listen? When do we speak up? What do we say? How do we say it? How, what, and when we speak matters. I have known people who turned to faith and others who turned away from faith because of the words spoken by followers of Jesus.

When I think about faith talk, I remember the book of Job. Job’s friends spoke with good intentions, but I’m not sure their words were helpful. I think about the admonitions in Proverbs about gossiping, talking too much, and watching what we say (Proverbs 4:24, 20:19). I think about how we wouldn’t be having this conversation if it hadn’t been for Peter, Paul, and others who talked faith (Acts 9:28, 13:42–43). I think about Paul’s letters to the churches in Rome, Corinth, Thessalonica, and Ephesus. Paul said that our words may be more about what we want to say than what Jesus wants us to say (Romans 16:18), that being overly confident in our faith talk makes us the fool (2 Corinthians 11:17), and that avoiding obscenity, foolish talk, coarse joking, and unwholesome words is as important as speaking specific words of faith (Ephesians 4:29, 5:4).


How do we sort through this business of faith talk, which is part of following Jesus? How do we practice it well?


I have found that people don’t want to know what we think; they don’t want our words. They want to be heard. So practice listening. Also, practice keeping your mouth shut. I’m amazed by how much better I respond when I take the time to be quiet and listen.


We think we understand. We think we know. The reality is that we are not certain about anything. Our human minds can only comprehend the surface of God’s words. So be humble when you talk faith. You might be wrong.


God spoke in the beginning and created life. Jesus used words to heal, feed, teach, correct, and bring the kingdom of God alive on earth. Paul tells us to use our words to encourage and to build up each other. So before you talk faith, ask yourself: Will the words I say bring life? Will they bring healing or shame? Will they offer others a glimpse of the kingdom of God? If the words I say are for correction, how can I say them in a loving, building-up way?



Reflect on the questions scattered throughout this article. Respond to them in your thoughts or in a journal. Consider sharing your responses with your friends or youth group.

For some further thoughts on public expressions of faith, check out Rob Bell’s Nooma video “Bull Horn.”

Sally Chambers believes that faith not only talks but also walks, runs, lifts, carries, leads, provides, supports, and loves. She doesn’t know how to get by without it.

—from devozine (May/June 2013). Copyright © 2013 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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