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Adapt to proclaim the Gospel

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It has been said that the mark of a good leader is ‘their ability to lead from experience’

            And when I say experience, I mean - direct, in the field, in the trenches experience

                        In essence – “credibility”

                                    Someone that has worked their way up through the ranks

                                                Done all the jobs - Experienced all the roles

And has the credibility to ‘know’… what they are asking, those under their charge, ‘to do’


I watched a movie a few weeks ago called “We were soldiers”

It is a story about the first major battle of the American phase of the Vietnam War and the soldiers on both sides that fought it.

It stars Mel Gibson as the military leader

And is a clear example of how a respected credible leader – who has done everything that he asks his fellow soldiers to do – and therefore has earned their respect and loyalty

It is this model of leadership that St. Paul writes about in our New Testament lesson for today

            Paul states “I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.”

                        All things – to All people…

This passage is often seen as a key piece of scripture for evangelism

St. Paul models for everyone in Corinth and all those that later subsequently read this letter – just how important the gospel is

He declared that he broke with cultural expectations to meet people where they were

To the Jews – one way

To those under the law – another

To those outside the law – another

And to the weak – still another way

To put this in context – in this four-fold explanation of people, we are to understand that Paul is encompassing everyone – All people

He is not limited to the Jewish people of his heritage

Nor ‘the well-educated’ of his training

St. Paul breaks down all the barriers … and meets the where they are

And notice the motivation ... “That I MIGHT by ALL means save SOME”….

This is not a story of St. Peter at Pentecost – where about 3000 men (not to mention women and children) came to believe –          … but some

All of Paul’s ministry to date – all of his missionary travels are for “some”

When we consider our own evangelism efforts we need to be mindful of this humble claim

            St. Paul the great church builder

                        The most significant writer of the New Testament

The one that went beyond the comforts of the ‘chosen people’ and was the Apostle to the gentiles

            St. Paul hoped that he MIGHT reach “some”

What does this mean for us?

            What are we to do – as we consider this passage of God’s Holy Word?

Like all scripture - we are to learn from it – we are to appreciate the challenges that face us as we go into a world that is hostile to the Gospel message

            Remember that it was also hostile in St. Paul’s times

Remember that he persevered through it all - to preach the gospel

            In fact our reading today starts out with an alarming statement

                                                “woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!”

To Paul – and to his readers in Corinth - and to us – it is dire if we don’t proclaim the gospel – the free gift of grace that is given to us

            It is vital that that gospel is proclaimed fully

Paul Tillich, a famous theologian, once wrote – “Being religious means asking passionately the question of the meaning of our existence and being willing to receive answers, even if the answers hurt.”

The gospel message that we have to proclaim is counter-cultural – it is not political correct – it will not appease everyone’s sensibilities

            But it is the truth

                        And the truth upsets our worldly comfortable ways

It calls us to a greater commitment and relationship with God and our neighbours

It calls us out of comfortable pews - and calls into the world

St. Paul modeled for us - a pattern for evangelism

Be flexible – adjust yourself to the people that you meet

If you are with one group – learn their ways and be as they are to make yourself available to them – develop credibility – they will hear you… if they can relate to you

When I was thinking about this strategy – what kept coming into my mind was that of an undercover cop - Maybe it was because of a certain book that I am reading

            An undercover cop has to appear to be like the group they want to penetrate

They have to dress like them and look like them – they need to talk like them – they likely need to have someone inside to introduce them in – they might have to take some time to build credibility to do their job

Then and only then can they really do their job – once they are in and credible

We need to be credible if we want to be like St. Paul and share the gospel and have any hope that it will be heard

Now one path that this strategy could go down is to think of St. Paul’s as a ‘chameleon of compromise’

            That he is being ‘all things to all people’ and changing the message that he has

This has been a strategy that some churches have adopted since the realization that we don’t live in Christendom anymore

            The realization that there are more outside church then within

Many churches have felt that as times have changed the church needs to change its message

            Churches have felt the need to get with the culture of the day

There is a need to make the message more palatable

For some churches, it is all about fellowship or maybe social justice and what can happen is that maybe they don’t proclaim the gospel at all for a long time – events held, are restricted to an ‘accessible agenda’ that they go without ever telling the full gospel message

Consider again, the illustration of the undercover cop – we have all seen stories in the news and it is a favourite topic of TV, books and movies, we know that the cop is ‘dirty’ when they have crossed the line: from appearing – to becoming

As Christians we are to join those outside the church in the innumerable places in which we meet them – join them, while always ‘with the goal’ of sharing our blessing

Does it appear St. Paul modeled for us a ‘chameleon of comprise’  

Did St. Paul have a legacy of telling people what they wanted to hear – just to ingratiate himself to them – (if you are not sure read Acts of the Apostles)

You will see that was not his way at all – and he suffered greatly for presenting and message that many didn’t want to hear – it was in fact that was the polar opposite of what he was trying to teach and proclaim in our passage for today

            He became like the others … so that… he could proclaim the gospel!

He said “I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.”

            ‘So that’ – or ‘therefore’ – whenever you see a ‘therefore’ you need to consider what it is there for

A slave to the Gospel – a slave to the Lord Jesus Christ

The message matters

                        It matters so deeply to St. Paul that he became a: willing, joyful, ‘slave’ to it

Consider what the Son of God himself did – as spoken in Jesus’ own words

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

                        The gospel message is simply ‘that our Lord and saviour died for everyone’

            The Gospel matters so deeply that God came as one of us and died for us                                                   The message, once believed, is salvation

                                    Everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life

Jesus died on the cross for everyone – God wants everyone to believe

For you and your sins – for me and my sins – for the person that has yet experienced God’s grace, for their sins too – it is for everyone that Jesus is the sacrificial lamb

And we remember this and thank the Lord each and every time we partake in Holy Communion – Holy Eucharist (which means thanksgiving)

We are reminded of the Gospel – and we humbly thank God AND we are part of both his death and we are part of His glorious victory over death – in the resurrection

So be ‘everything to all people’ – fulfill the gift of God’s grace – Adapt to proclaim the gospel

And in closing consider the words of High Eagle, a first nations chief 
The mere possession of a vision is not the same as living it, nor can we encourage others with it if we do not, ourselves, understand and follow its truths. …To be blessed with visions is not enough ... we must live them [to share them]!


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