“Though I myself am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone to win as many as possible. To the Jew I become like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law, I became like one under the law, to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law, so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, so as to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:19-22
This was actually the very first scripture verse(s) I ever memorized after surrendering my life to Christ back in the Spring of 1994. In fact, I can remember clearly why this was the first verse I put to memory. At that time I was 20 years old and the friends who had been inviting me to church, were working on putting together a Christian rap song to perform in youth service the next week. This verse was part of that song. It stuck with me. Now after 20+ years of scripture memorization and study, it still has special meaning. The youth leaders back then used to preach this scripture as well, stating we needed to be whatever it took, to reach people. Go to them, not make them come to us! I completely agree with this sentiment and I believe we see this backed in scripture by the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys. Somewhere over the past 10-15 years though, it seems this scripture took a wrong turn. Or to be correct, we took a wrong turn, in the name of this scripture.
While in reaching the lost, we are to most definitely be willing to get on the same level of others but that does not necessarily mean, the church has to get on the same level of the rest of the world. Ouch! We are called to be different than the world. Paul affirms this in his 2nd letter to the Corinthian church:
“As God has said, ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ ‘Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing and I will receive you.’ ‘I will be a Father to you and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’
Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” 2 Corinthians 6:16-18, 7:1
As a Christian, we are to be ‘different’. Why so you ask? Because we have been ‘born again’. We have been spiritually reborn-infused with the life blood of God Himself! We live in this world, yes but, we are not from this world. Somewhere many have lost this notion. Oh it may be preached as so from the pulpit but in practicality of service and approach-not so much. We’ve watered down the message. It may sound somewhat the same but little bits here and there have been steadily shaved away from the original, leaving only a shadow of what the church should be.
Why??? Why have church services abroad, conformed to the pattern of this world? In hopes of keeping alive the 1 Corinthians text quoted in the opening statement? I think they would like to believe that is true. I think the bigger answer is simply the word ‘compromise’. Why do we feel the need to morph the scriptures in favor of our own finite ideology? We don’t need to help God. Ouch again! But this is exactly what so many do. Scripture was true then and guess what? It’s still true now. It’s amazing how many will add all types of ‘extras’ to a service in hopes of attracting people to their church. Or one will eliminate little aspects here and there-just enough so one is not offended. This will attract them to our church. Or let’s roll out the red carpet with all types of worldly attractions to get their attention. Worldly attraction will surely instill godly values and repentance, right? Ouch! …for real this time.
I’m not saying all things extra are bad. What I am saying is we have to stop trying to look like the world, sound like the world, taste like the world to get them to come. Or even better yet, to get them saved and born again! Guess what? The basics still work.
Prayer still works. (Acts 4:24-31)
Intercession still works. (Ezek 22:30)
Worship still works. (John 4:24)
Scripture still works. (1 Thess 2:13)
Repentance still works. (2 Cor 7:9-10)
Holiness still works. (Heb 12:14)
Signs and wonders still work. (Heb 2:4)
Sharing the Gospel with others still works. (Phil 1:6)
The blood of Jesus still works. (Heb 9:22)
The Cross still works. (Matt 10:38)
All of these still work!! Why have we slowly but surely abandoned them over time.
- Oh we have prayer meetings but all too often they are on our own schedules and time frames rather than waiting on God to move in our midst. Prayer takes time and effort and patience…
- Oh, and we have praise and worship in our services but few actually worship in the spirit. So much of it is just watching the band and light show or it’s crazy jumping up and down in our own flesh which is actually a stench in the nostrils of God today. As those spiritually reborn, we are to worship God through the spirit, not our own strength. There is dancing in the spirit but it’s led by…(wait for it). The Spirit. Few ever even instruct the people of God on this.
- Yes some scripture is mentioned during most sermons but rarely ever enough that one would leave with a thorough understanding of the surrounding text so as to go home and implement it-or better yet, teach it to others!
- Repentance? There might be a call to accept God at the end of the service but many times not in contemporary services. That would make people uncomfortable. C’mon now…
- Be like the world or be like God? Hmmm. Holiness is another thing that seems to be past its prime. He called us to be Holy though…sanctified.
- “Come and receive healing!” we say. You will get better they say. Yeah, they would get healed if we were willing to actually engage the spiritual gifts. (Shhhh…that would be too radical.)
- Sharing the Gospel with another person?! Are you out of your mind? What might they think? (I might invite them to church on Easter though…)
- The blood of Jesus. That is just too graphic for church these days. No real need to mention blood is there? Skip. Next please.
- The cross. It’s the center point of everything. It’s the culmination of our victory over sin, the world and the devil. It’s our bridge into eternity. It’s our VIP ticket into a relationship with the Father of everything. It’s reconciliation at its finest. Where is it though? The cross demands we lay our life down that we might belong to another. This is definitely not popular!
How about the name of Jesus? The name that is above every name. That name that is offensive to the world. The name that belongs to a man but also to God. The One who makes all this possible.
Here it is in a nutshell. Yes we need to go to the world and enter their arena to reach them. We can’t just sit holed up in the four walls of a church building singing ‘Kumba-ya-my Lord’ hoping they show up Sunday morning. To do that we need to get our hands dirty and ‘become all things to all men so that by all possibly means we might save some.’ But we don’t need to compromise the original standards of the Word to get them here or to get them saved. Let God save them. It’s our responsibility to be faithful with what works. It worked then and it still works now. Does it take the control out of our hands though? Yes it does. It’s not about man manipulating things to get people saved. We don’t need another program or another ‘slick trick’ to get people to the cross. We just need the cross!
One last word on this and I’ve mentioned it previously. We need to pray. Every great work of God over history has been birthed in prayer. We need to get on our faces and pray for the harvest to come it. Yes we are willing to work and labor but we need to pray. It’s the Lord who draws people to Him, not us. Surprised? John 6:44 & 65 iterate this very sentiment. (Check it out!) We can be relevant to our culture but let’s get back to the basics. Let’s get back to God. And God will get back to His people…
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14