Person to Person: A
practical approach to effective
the Right to Be Heard
by Jim Berlucchi
Excellency in character and
conduct should be the trademark of every
disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus himself, fully
man and fully God, was perfect in all that he
said and did. He was God’s example to us of
peerless character – a man of courage,
faithfulness, integrity, obedience, and
loyalty. He conducted himself so that all who
heard him listened. The crowds “were
astonished at his teaching, for he taught them
as one who had authority, and not as their
scribes” (Matthew 8:28b-29). Jesus earned “the
right to be heard.”
We, too, must earn the right to
be heard. If our lives fall short under the
scrutiny of a watchful observer, that same
observer will be more apt to dismiss any
spiritual message we might impart. On the
other hand, if we demonstrate excellence of
conduct and speech in our daily relationships,
people will listen more seriously to what we
have to say about the Christian life. Our
message will be credible. Credible is defined
as “worth of belief; trustworthy; reliable;
entitled to confidence.” This kind of
credibility accounted for the evangelistic
success of Christ’s infant church: “And day by
day, attending the temple together and
breaking bread in their homes, they partook of
food with glad and generous hearts, praising
God and having favor with all the people. And
the Lord added to their number day by day
those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46-47)
The leader of
that early church, Peter, later instructed the
Christians regarding the effective witness.
“Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so
that in case they speak against you as
wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and
glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter
Similarly, the apostle Paul says
to the church at Thessalonica: “We exhort you
brethren . . . to aspire to live quietly, to
mind your own affairs, and to work with your
hands, as we charged you; so that
you may command the respect of outsiders, and
be dependent on nobody” (1 Thessalonians
Both Peter and Paul, great giants
of the faith, emphasize the importance of the
witness of a Christian life to outsiders.
Every group that is interested in promoting a
message or vision for life perceives how
important their members’ conduct is. Many of
us have heard of the Boy Scout law, the list
of qualities that should characterize a scout.
A scout is: trustworthy, loyal, helpful,
friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful,
thrifty, brave, clean, reverent.
Peter supplies us with God’s list
of qualities in 2 Peter 1:5-8:
this very reason make every effort to
supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue
with knowledge, and knowledge with
self-control, and self-control with
steadfastness, and steadfastness with
godliness, and godliness with brotherly
affection, and brotherly affection with love.
For if these things are yours and abound, they
keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful
in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord wants us to be the kind
of people who command the respect of others.
We should be known as responsible and
self-controlled people. Our word should be
reliable. We should be able to be counted on.
If we are not, our verbal witness will count
Two cases in
point illustrate the necessity of good
conduct, one negatively and one positively.
college student by the name of Joe plays
varsity baseball. He is especially known for
his Christian commitment and aggressive
evangelism. He talks to other players about
following the Lord and uses every opportunity
to give his testimony. As a matter of fact,
his speech is always peppered with “Praise the
Lord” and “Alleluia” in practices and games.
Beside this, he is an excellent ballplayer who
starts in every game.
One might think, given this
description, that Joe is sowing some spiritual
seed that will bear fruit. Unfortunately, this
isn’t the case. Joe is known, not only for his
fervor and talent, but also for his
unreliability. He is usually late for practice
and sometimes late for games. He can’t be
counted on in the normal rigors of preparation
and is sloppy with his schoolwork. As far as
discipline and responsibility go, Joe is
manifestly deficient, and this shortcoming
costs him severely whenever he tries to
witness for Christ. Because of his obvious
unreliability Joe might, in fact, be doing the
gospel more harm than good. Though zealous and
well-intentioned, Joe has failed to earn the
respect of his peers and coaches.
Just as poor conduct undermines
verbal witness, excellent conduct promotes
evangelistic success. Larry is a local
businessman who has helped many of his
associates draw closer to the Lord. As
aggressive in his verbal witnessing as Joe,
Larry concentrates even more on his behavior
in the office and in general. He is not only
competent in his professional duties, but
reliable, respectful, and cooperative as well.
Because he is so respected, others give weight
to his Christian convictions and are
positively influenced. Larry recently showed
me a letter of recommendation his boss wrote
have had the pleasure of professional
association with Mr. Jenkins for the past five
years. In all my dealings with him, I have
found him to be both fair and uncompromising
in principle. His work is always of the
highest caliber. Reliability is his trademark.
clients and co-workers respect him, and as his
supervisor, I too, hold him in high regard. I
unreservedly recommend him in his area of
expertise. In my frank opinion, he is a fine
It is worth
noting that Larry’s boss is not a Christian.
However, his respect for Christianity has
grown through his association and regard for
Larry. He even mentions Larry’s Christianity
favorably in his letter of recommendation.
The respect and
credibility we command through our actions and
reputation can help us to assess how verbally
aggressive we should be with the gospel.
Larry’s verbal witness was effective because
his life visibly reinforced his convictions.
Joe’s verbal witness backfired because of his
shortcomings. Joe should have taken steps to
grow in responsibility. At the same time, he
should have been more discreet in his
Though strength of character is
important, I am not asserting that we must be
perfect before we proclaim Christ. However,
the better we are as persons, the more
powerful our proclamation. In certain
relationships, where we are particularly prone
to error, we might wisely decide to subdue our
verbal witness. We should not strain our
effectiveness beyond its limits. Conversely,
in situations where we have established a good
reputation, we can and should be telling
others about our relationship with the Lord.
Whenever possible, we should take maximum
advantage of our good reputation.
We should regularly and
prayerfully appraise the quality of our
conduct. Who are the people we often relate
to? Are we respected among them? Do our
neighbors know us as reliable and courteous?
Are we patient and thoughtful with our
roommate? Do we need to apologize for any
wrongdoing we have committed in our family?
How can we improve our behavior on the job?
This kind of assessment will not
only help us improve our witness, but will
give us wisdom in assessing how actively we
should speak of Christ in various
relationships (Colossians 4:5).
For those who work outside the
home, the quality of our work will play a
major influence in our ability to evangelize
others at the workplace. Scripture offers
wisdom for those under forced employment
(slaves) that can be helpful for the Christian
employee today. I am certainly not suggesting
that we should conduct ourselves like
Christian slaves on the job, but there is a
rough analogy here. In Colossians 3:22-24 we
obey in everything those who are your earthly
masters, not with eyesight, as men-pleasers,
but in singleness of heart, fearing the Lord.
Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving
the Lord and not man, knowing that from the
Lord you will receive the inheritance as your
reward; you are serving the Lord Christ.
instructions are both clear and applicable.
Obey in everything.
Many employees set their own standards for
obeying their supervisors. The Christian
should be committed from the heart, even when
no one will see, to obey his boss in
everything related to his work, unless it is
Not as man-pleasers, but
God-pleasers. The Christian should not be
primarily motivated by the attention he will
get from his employer. His motive should be to
In singleness of heart, fearing
the Lord. The motive of the Christian
worker is pure and generated by the fear of
the Lord – not the fear of the annual
performance review or the opinion of others.
Whatever your task, serve
heartily. A recent report in a national
news magazine cited widespread corruption in
the world of work. Tax evasion, theft, sloth,
graft, and wasting time were described as
rampant features in small and large
corporations. Consider how brightly a
hard-working Christian shines in this
atmosphere of increasing greed and laziness.
Having favor both with God and
man is instrumental in spreading the gospel.
The key to godly character of course, is God
himself. Not only can we accomplish nothing
without him – we can be nothing
him. It is his power within us that enables us
to be more than conquerors – victors over our
own personal deficiencies and winners of men
article is adapted from the book, Person
to Person: How to be effective in
evangelism, © 1984 by Jim Berlucchi,
and published by Servants Books, Ann
||Jim Berlucchi is the
Executive Director at Spitzer
Center for Ethical Leadership.
He formerly served as the Executive
Director of Legatus, an
international association of
Catholic CEOs. He is the work/life
columnist for Faith
Magazine, and a published
composer and recording artist.
clips of his music are
He served for many years as a
community leader in The Word of God
and The Sword of the Spirit.He and
his wife Judy reside in Dexter,
Michigan, USA. They are the grateful
parents of eight children and enjoy
a steadily increasing number of