1 Corinthians 9:19-23
"Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel that I may share in its blessings..."
This section of Scripture has impressed me as I have searched for a philosophy to ministry: "To the weak I became weak to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some."
We are now living in an age where people are seeking spirituality and an encounter with God, but who often search for that experience outside the Christian context.
There are many reasons why, but in my Sunday school class I am finding that the seekers generally do not have church background. In other words, they are unlike me because I grew up in the church. I find this challenging, because I frequently have to rethink the way I answer questions. I also have to think through truths that I have heard all of my life and have taken for granted.
The apostle Paul faced this issue when he spoke to the people at Athens. These were a people used to comfort. They had a smorgasbord of religion from which to choose and also did not grow up hearing about the God of the Jews. In order to speak to them, Paul had to change his approach without changing the message. Even though there were few converts in Athens the people did listen to him. I have heard preachers say that the reason for this is because Paul was not relying on the Holy Spirit. I find that hard to believe; he just had a difficult audience.
The people of Athens sound a lot like people in America and in Northern Europe. We are used to the creature comforts, we have plenty of food and we have many religions from which to choose. We also have enough entertainment to fill every waking moment. I am also finding in my Sunday school class that people do not want the canned answers that the church has accepted for so long. Like the Athenians, they are bright people. They want convincing discussion. They want to see us live the truth that we profess. So how will we reach these people?
The answer, I believe, lies in prayer and in willingness. James 1: 5 says: "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." I know that I need to pray for wisdom because I do not know how to minister to the unchurched. It is easy to remain comfortable in familiar surroundings with familiar people, but that does not change the fact that the world needs Jesus. I then need to be willing to obey once I pray. To minister to people outside the church, God may ask me to approach ministry in uncomfortable or different ways. He is the one who knows how to minister though. I can trust him for the results.