“I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22 NIV84)
Lately I have been putting a lot of thought into evangelism strategies that I think might work for the 21st century. Today’s verse addresses exactly what I have been thinking. Decades ago, most people in the western world shared enough similar principles in their worldviews that one could directly begin a spiritual conversation around those shared principles as bridges to the Gospel. An example would be that most Americans shared enough similar moral values that they could speak of right and wrong, guilt and shame, and they could relate. But that is not true today. We no longer share similar worldviews, values, or morals. We have very little common ground from which to begin a discussion and eventually bridge to the Gospel. We cannot just keep slinging spiritual truths at a society that has no frame of reference to consider or evaluate them. So what do we do?
Paul’s word for us today is that we need to “become all things to all men.” We need to begin where they are. We need to know enough about their worldview that we can reveal its weak points and create doubts about its stability. If we can reveal the flaws of someone’s worldview, we succeed in two things. First, we show that we care enough to know where the other person is coming from. Second, once their foundation is in question, they will be willing to consider other views that may be more consistent with truth and reality. The key for 21st-century evangelism is to apologetically defend the faith only after you have begun where the other person is. We need to step onto their island and discuss reality as it is understood there, and then begin to build a bridge to God’s island of truth.
Let’s begin with their truth and gradually move toward ours.