How can we win more souls to Christ? How can we become more effective at influencing people? The answer: developing a servant mentality. The apostle Paul said that he “made [himself] a servant to all, that [he] might win more of them” (1 Cor. 9:19).
Most of us are pretty bad at that. Not just at winning souls, but at “being a servant” (which is why we’re so bad at winning souls). Some Christians are so self-absorbed that they have stopped evening noticing the people around them – the waitress, the bank teller, the cashier, the mechanic, the mailman, the neighbors, the visitors at church – even their own families.
We’re too busy thinking, “What can you do for me?” that we forget to ask, “What can I do for you?”
- “What can I say that will plant a Gospel seed in this person’s heart?
- “How can I get involved in this person’s life?”
- “When can I invite this person to church?”
- “How would Jesus serve this person?”
- “How can I teach this person the Truth?”
We all need to ask, “How can I become a better servant to the people around me?” Paul says, “By becoming all things to all people.” Let him explain what he means:
1. “To the Jews I became as a Jew” (1 Cor. 9:20). Within scriptural limits, Paul became as Jewish as he could when trying to influence the Jews. If abiding by their ceremonial regulations, refraining from eating certain foods, observing special holidays, or even undergoing circumcision (cf. Acts 16:3) would help win the heart of a Jew to Christ, he would do it. Whatever might open a door for Christ. The Jews took the Mosaical Law very seriously, and Paul did not want to appear sacrilegious. He wasn’t, after all, telling the Jews that Christianity was an abandonment of their father’s faith, but rather the fulfillment of their father’s faith (cf. Matt. 5:17; Rom. 10:4).
How is this relevant for me? I need to be respectful of what other people sincerely believe. While I can’t embrace error, I also must be careful not to develop a reputation for assaulting and ridiculing the faith of other people. I know Christians like that, and they aren’t very productive for the cause of Christ. I knew one Christian who would just downright tell people, “You’re going to hell if you don’t go to the church of Christ.” Peter tells us we need to talk to people with “gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15). People need to see that we care about them. They need to see that we respect their sincerity and simply want to teach them the “way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26).
2. “To those outside the law I became as one outside the law” (1 Cor. 9:21). This does not mean that Paul lived a sinful heathen lifestyle in an effort to reach heathens, because he added, “not outside the law of God but under the law of Christ.” The Law of Christ is, in many ways, even more stringent than the Mosaical Law. What Paul means is that he tried to reach out to people who were unfamiliar with the Gospel.
I must try to associate and identify with nonreligious people. I must look for ways to connect with people who are unfamiliar with Gospel. Too often, people who have grown up in the Lord’s Church forget how to speak to people outside of the Lord’s Church. The attitude many have is:
- “I can’t invite that person to church – he is an alcoholic.”
- “I can’t have a Bible study with that person – his language is too crude and filthy.”
- “That person has no understanding of the Bible; he’s hopeless. I can’t talk to him.”
- “Their family is too messed up; church won’t do them any good.”
- “She has emotional problems; I can’t deal with that.”
Can you relate to this attitude? These are the people who need Jesus Christ and the influence of God’s Word the most! These are the kinds of people Jesus tried to influence (cf. Mark 2:13-17). I must learn how to speak to them on their level of comprehension. There was a man who came to me after church and told me how appreciative he was that people were explaining to him in simple terms why we did things the way we did in the church of Christ. He said, “No other church I visited took the time to explain what they believe.” I need to learn how to patiently explain the Gospel to people who know nothing about God.
3. “To the weak I became weak” (1 Cor. 9:22). “The weak” are people who have a limited grasp on the Gospel; weak Christians. Paul stooped down to their level of understanding and weakness. The last thing he wanted to do was offend someone or cause a weaker Christian to stumble. For example, he would not eat certain foods if doing so violated the conscience of a weaker Christian (cf. Rom. 14:1-12).
This is an important principle that few Christians seem to understand: I cannot knowingly do anything that is going to cause a weaker Christian to stumble, even if I believe there is nothing inherently wrong with the action by itself. How does this effect how I approach grey areas? How does this effect how I approach judgment areas? I need to take into consideration the influence I have on other Christians.
When I was baptized into Christ, I died to myself (Rom. 6:4; Gal. 2:20). For the rest of my life, everything I do must be “for the sake of the Gospel” (1 Cor. 9:23). I must live my life serving others so that “by all means I might save some” (v. 22). If people refuse Jesus Christ, I want it to be because of the Truth of His Word, not because of me.