They wanted zealously and shrewdly to inquire into the disposition of the inhabitants in order to remain longer if they found they could sow the seeds of salvation; or in case they found the hearts of the people in darkness, go on to the nearest nations.
- Jonas, Life of St. Columban
Since I bear the responsibility for very needful teaching, first of all I may briefly speak of the first thing for all to know. I desire that what is the basis for all men’s salvation should be the foundation of our talk, and that our doctrine should commence from that point whence all that arises and what has not been begins, and that the heart’s belief should open the gateway of our talk, rightly opening, as it does, the mouths of all Christian believers to a salutary confession.
- Columbanus, Sermon 1
Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.
- Colossians 4.5, 6
Immediately upon arriving in Brittany, Columbanus and his team wasted no time getting started in their work. We note two important aspects of their initial endeavors which are instructive to us in working our Personal Mission Fields.
The first is represented by the verb inquire. Columbanus and his team began to ask the people of Brittany about their spiritual lives. Jonas does not provide any details here, but we can use our imaginations. Perhaps as they interacted in the markets, they asked people about local beliefs and traditions, or even what their own religious practices were. Had they heard about Jesus? What gods or other spiritual ideas shaped their thinking and lives?
Everyone is religious in that everyone holds some idea about ultimate good, even if it’s only defined in terms of “good for me.” And they hold this view as an act of faith. People nurture a vision of what they consider their ultimate good – what it will be like when they achieve it – and they organize their lives to obtain it, as much as possible now, and more and more in the future. They believe in their idea of the good, and they discipline their lives to realize it. They live by faith and so are just as religious in their own way as you and I.
We can redeem the time we have with others by learning about their religious beliefs. They may not regard themselves as religious, and we don’t have to insist that they are. But, making sure our speech is always gracious, we can find out what people long for, hope in, are striving to realize, and want very much to possess. We can also discover if they have a church or any background in religion.
Asking questions shows that we’re interested in people, and it can also help us in knowing how to talk with them about “the first thing for all to know,” which is, the Good News of Jesus and His Kingdom.
The second verb is found. We note that Columbanus and His team let what they discovered about people’s hearts guide their actions with respect to their witness. Where there seemed to be an openness to talking about the Gospel, they initiated conversations, explained their mission, and invited people to consider Jesus. Where people were closed to talking about religion, they moved on, not forcing themselves on anyone, but always listening and watching for any open doors of opportunity.
The Gospel is “very needful teaching” for everyone. God has entrusted this Good News to us, and we have been sent, like Jesus and Columbanus, to a particular place and the people we meet there. Be sure to pray daily for the people in your Personal Mission Field. As you get to know them, by asking questions and listening carefully, you’ll be able to determine their views concerning spiritual matters, what they believe in and hope for, and where they stand in relation to God and Jesus Christ. Take your time. Don’t rush into proclaiming the Gospel, but let the Lord lead little by little. Make sure you have “a salutary confession” of your own experience of Christ ready to share with any who may ask a reason for the hope that is within you (1 Pet. 3.15).
Getting to know people and praying faithfully for them are important aspects of the work we’ve been given to do in our Personal Mission Fields. Let’s not waste any time, but get right to the task each day, seeking the Lord on behalf of the people we will see that day, talking graciously with them, listening attentively as they answer our questions or share their lives, and waiting on the Lord to guide our every next step.
Keep your eyes on Jesus throughout the day. If you will, contemplating Him and conversing with Him, you’ll find that Jesus will more likely be “the foundation” not only of your talk, but of your entire life, and all your work in bringing the Good News to the people to whom God sends you each day.
Psalm 107.1-3 (Faithfulness: Great is Thy Faithfulness)
Lord, You are good, we give thanks and we praise You!
Your steadfast love will forever endure.
Let the redeemed, who from trouble You rescue,
Gather and say that Your mercy is sure!
Refrain vv. 1-3
Lord, for Your wondrous works, and for Your steadfast love,
We give You thanks, we exalt Your great Name!
We who from east and west, north and south gather,
Boldly redemption in Christ we proclaim!
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T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The Foundation of Our Talk
- T.M. Moore
- November 20, 2018
Ready to talk about Jesus?
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.