“If Christ is not relevant outside the church, he is insignificant inside the church. If our faith is bound to the inner chambers of the Christian community, it is at best a disobedient faith, and at worst, no faith at all . . . the Christian must embrace the world as the theater of redemptive activity” (Susan Hecht, Telling the Truth, p. 254).
Today the perception is that Christianity simply does not matter, is neither harmful nor helpful, and remnants of any substantial “Christian memory” are all but lost on our culture. The challenges before us are striking and the relevance of the Gospel is hard to show. However, a quick glance at 1 Cor. 9:19-22 provides a solid framework for being creative in our strategies to effectively communicate the Gospel.
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made 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 Gods 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 people 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.
- In effect, Paul is saying that non-verbal communication is vital to our effectiveness in sharing the Gospel (63-95% of all communication is non-verbal).
- Paul is not promoting situation ethics (e.g.,“to the liar, I became a liar”). In the morally neutral arena, believers are to act with acuity and discernment before censuring societal mores. Accommodation without compromise is Paul’s heart and should also be ours.
- Sadly, it’s far easier to be a separatist on the one hand or simply indulge in culture on the the other, than to think deeply about how the Gospel can be advanced in our lives. Put differently, the balance between freedom and restraint and the dangers of assimilation versus isolation are perennial concerns that require us to take a hard look at how we order our lives as we remove barriers to the reception of the Gospel.
How should I consider applying this Gospel to the world around me? Consider these five strategic tips:
- Get people to see that the Gospel message does not call for a mere decision, it calls for conversion—a radical change in thinking, believing, and living. Conversion entails a Person to follow as well as a gift to be received.
- Decisions are what we see outwardly; conversions are what God does inwardly. More often than not, those whose “conversion” doesn’t stick may be more of a problem with our evangelism than our follow-up strategies.
- Exposure to the Gospel is not the same as understanding and committing to it. We must take the time to get people to understand the entire Gospel message rather than offering a “3-minute testimony” or some truncated view of the cross.
- Most of those whom we engage with Gospel truth will have to radically forsake some central beliefs and behaviors to become Christian (e.g., Jesus is one way among many, the idea that sin is person-relative and not an affront to a holy God, principled submission to the moral precepts of God’s Word is optional). In essence, there must be a call to repentance from a life of sin as well as to faith in Jesus as Savior.
- Learn to think like a missionary, developing sensitive and relevant ways to bridge the gap between disparate worldviews. We must intentionally see our neighbors, friends, co-workers, and world as God’s mission field (Mt. 9:37). Every home should be staged as mission outposts for demonstrating the love of God to advance the kingdom of God in our neighborhoods.