J.D. Greear: "Saying 'Preach the gospel; if necessary use words' is like saying 'Tell me your phone number; if necessary use digits.'"
I got much more feedback on that thought (someone else's thought, mind you) than I expected, and have spent some significant time fielding challenges. So, since I spent a fair amount of time writing over there, and since I haven't posted any original thoughts over here in a bit, I thought I'd share my latest response with you. In case you hadn't noticed, my title is also my prediction for what you're thinking right now.
I make no attempt to dismiss the good of other religions (chuck). I freely admit that many religions motivate people to be better, try harder, and better society for all involved.
But, my point remains, when talking of the Gospel, the "good news" of Christianity, the main idea is not the improvement of the individual or the society (though this should and must be a natural result of the Gospel properly understood).
The Gospel is centrally about the life, work, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ objectively at a point in history past to repair the rift between man and God for all who would believe in him.
And while loving action did come first at times in the biblical accounts (as Amy pointed out), this was not a prescriptive model for us and the proclamation of the Gospel as often came first (the woman at the well, or most of Paul's ministry). Of course, I am not suggesting that the first thing you should ever say to every person you meet are the Gospel details, but you must get there!
As I have seen so often, Christians try to preach the Gospel without words and the people they are loving never end up hearing the truth. In fact, I've been involved in conversations where people are shocked when they find out someone is a Christian because, while a nice person, this person has never so much as hinted at the Gospel as the reason they behave so.
In fact, as an outside observer (if I am correct in characterizing you so), Chuck unwittingly has pointed out the problem with thinking we simply preach the Gospel by the way we live. Many religions improve the lot of humanity, and we are fooling ourselves if we think that Christians are living such superior lives as a group that people will be saved by us.
After all, what is the "power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes"? Our compelling lives? Our good deeds? Our far superior moral character? (Note my sarcasm) Certainly we must back up what we say with how we live. We must live out the Gospel and let it take root daily in our lives. And much of the apostolic writings are there to accomplish just that.
But we must get over ourselves. We will never live differently enough to save people. There is no power for salvation within how my (or anyone else's) life is lived.
"I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who belives".