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!
- All Things to All People
- 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
- 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.)
- 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.)
- Is obedience to the law a moral issue? Is salvation
through faith alone a moral issue?
- 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
- 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.)
- 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
- Real Life Decisions
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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
- 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).
- 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?
- Agreed Upon Principles
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.)
- Was it the position of the church that you could eat meat
sacrificed to idols? (No. Read Acts 15:23-29.)
- On whose authority was this decision made? (The early
church leaders, under the guidance of the Holy
- 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.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 9:22. What is Paul’s primary rule?
(Winning others to Christ.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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
- 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
- Next week: John the Baptist: Preparing the Way for Jesus.