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Lesson 2: "All Things to All Men": Paul Preaches to the World *

Introduction: "Why would we use the world's approach? All we need is the Holy Spirit!" Some church leaders look at evangelizing the world like any other business outreach. If a strategy works for business, we should try it in the church. Others seem to think no modern strategy is needed, we should just depend on the Holy Spirit to bring in new members. E.M. Bounds said: "Man looks for better methods, God looks for better men. Men are God's methods." Does that make any sense? Wouldn't better men look for better methods? What if the Holy Spirit told us to use modern strategies? Would you be willing to change your church service as a strategy to attract new members? What if you thought certain changes were theologically incorrect, would you make those? What about members who think the changes are sinful? Let's dive into our lesson and find out what the Holy Spirit says through missionary Paul about converting the world!

  1. All Things to All People

    1. Read 1 Corinthians 9:19. What work is Paul talking about when he says "to win as many as possible?" (He is talking about converting sinners. He is talking about evangelizing.)

      1. When Paul says he is making himself a slave, what do you understand this to mean? Is he losing his freedom? (He is giving up what he might prefer to do. He is subordinating his wishes to those of others.)

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 9:20-22. Is Paul being a hypocrite when he says he acts as if he were under the law to some and not under it to others? (He has one constant rule - to try to fit in with all people.)

      1. Is obedience to the law a moral issue? Is salvation through faith alone a moral issue?

        1. Is this what Paul is talking about when he says "under the law?" (If he is not talking about obedience and salvation, it sure smells like he is!)

        2. If these are not moral issues, is it at least an issue on which you can say one group is theologically correct and the other side is theologically incorrect? (Yes. For fun and confusion on this issue read Galatians 2:11-14.)

        3. If you agree that there is a right and wrong answer to the issue about being under the law, is Paul saying converting people is more important than being theologically correct? (He says it is theologically correct to "fit in." However, note 1 Corinthians 9:21 where he says he is under God's/Christ's law. He is bound by moral principles.)

  2. Real Life Decisions

    1. Let's discuss some real applications in your church. When I appear in court, I always wear a coat and tie. I believed I should show God the same honor by wearing a coat and tie to church. One day someone suggested that most people did not wear a coat and tie and, maybe, I was discouraging new people from coming to church if they did not own a coat and tie. Assume that I'm right that I should wear a tie before God if I wear it before some human judge. What would Paul wear if he thought wearing a tie would discourage new people from coming to church?

      1. Recently, I listened to some sermons from the pastor of the Mars Hill Church. They were excellent. The pastor wore ripped jeans and a t-shirt. I would never dream of wearing that to church - especially if I were preaching. What do you think the Mars Hill pastor is doing, and is he right?

    2. I like contemporary praise music. Levi Tavares, my wonderful translator for those who read Portugese, loves the old hymns but not contemporary praise music. If my church was located in a community filled with people like Levi, should I stop singing contemporary praise music so I can get these Levi-like people to attend church?

      1. What if Levi finds that his community is filled with Bruce-like people who love contemporary praise music? Should he toss out his hymn books and start singing contemporary praise songs to get these people to attend his church?

    3. What if most people in the community attend church on Sunday, and you believe that the seventh-day Sabbath is the true day of worship: should you add an additional service on Sunday, until you can teach them about the Sabbath?

      1. If you say, "No, don't be silly," what do you think Paul meant when he said "I became like one not having the law?" ( 1 Corinthians 9:21).

    4. What if half your present members leave because the preacher starts wearing ripped jeans, the music changes and you start holding services on the wrong day? Does Paul's goal of "saving some" exclude present members?

  3. Agreed Upon Principles

    1. I'm sure this has stirred up a hornet's nest. If the principle is to "do anything" to bring in new members, then we should do it. However, if that is not what Paul is teaching, we need to understand his teaching so that we can make principled decisions for evangelizing. Let's look at some applications from Paul's day to try to understand the underlying principles.

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 10:25-26. What conscience issues are involved here? (If you read 1 Corinthians 10 you will see that Paul is writing about idol worship. He says don't worship idols and don't make sacrifices to an idol. However, if you did not sacrifice meat to an idol, and you are buying meat of unknown origin, you don't have to worry about whether someone else offered it to an idol.)

    3. Read 1 Corinthians 10:27-29. What new rule does Paul give us for eating? (Although it is not wrong for you to eat meat offered to an idol, if someone has a problem with that, you should not eat "idol meat" in front of them.)

    4. Was it the position of the church that you could eat meat sacrificed to idols? (No. Read Acts 15:23-29.)

      1. On whose authority was this decision made? (The early church leaders, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.)

      2. Does this mean Paul was violating a moral rule when he ate meat that might have been offered to an idol? (My vote is that Paul did not think so, but it is clear that others could argue that Paul was violating a moral rule.)

    5. Read 1 Corinthians 9:22. What is Paul's primary rule? (Winning others to Christ.)

      1. Does this include not offending the weak that you already have in the church? (Read 1 Corinthians 10:31-33. Yes, we do not want to "cause to stumble" even those already in the church.)

    6. What have we learned so far for our missionary efforts? Go back and apply all these principles to the modern situations that we discussed: 1) Church attire; 2)Church music; and 3) Non-traditional day of worship? (There are clearly areas of theological dispute in which we should "limit our freedom" to convert others. This, in turn, is limited by those "weak" members who think a moral issue is involved, even though it is not.)

    7. Does this mean we are just paralyzed? We want to do new things to bring in new people, but the weak members prevent us from doing it? (Read Romans 15:20. Remember that Paul is traveling from new group to new group. You may have to start a new service in your church or plant a new church to do something different to bring in new members.)

    8. Friend, I don't think Paul tells us to violate moral principles in our efforts to win others to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21). However, he certainly tells us that we should limit our own freedom on subjects which are highly debated. The problem is dealing with "weak" members who think a moral issue is at stake when it is not. If your church is stagnant, will you pray that God will show you what you need to change to bring in new people? Will you also pray that God will give your church members the ability to distinguish between their preferences and real moral issues?

  4. Next week: John the Baptist: Preparing the Way for Jesus.
* Copr. 2008, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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