I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 1 Corinthians 9:22
When Mary Slessor sailed to the African nation of Calabar (now Nigeria) in the late 1800s, she was enthusiastic to continue the missionary work of the late David Livingstone. Her first assignment, teaching school while living among fellow missionaries, left her burdened for a different way to serve. So she did something rare in that region—she moved in with the people she was serving. Mary learned their language, lived their way, and ate their food. She even took in dozens of children who’d been abandoned. For nearly forty years, she brought hope and the gospel to those who needed both.
The apostle Paul knew the importance of truly meeting the needs of those around us. He mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:4–5 that there are “different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit,” and “different kinds of service, but the same Lord.” So he served people in their area of need. For instance, “to the weak [he] became weak” (9:22).
One church I’m aware of recently announced the launch of an “all abilities” ministry approach complete with a barrier-free facility—making worship available for people with disabilities. This is the Paul-like kind of thinking that wins hearts and allows the gospel to flourish in a community.
As we live out our faith before those around us, may God lead us to introduce them to Jesus in new and fresh ways.
What unique way to reach out to others has God placed on your heart? How will you accomplish it?
Dear heavenly Father, please give me wisdom to find the right way to help others.
The principle Paul puts forth in 1 Corinthians 9:19–23—that of meeting people where they are with the gospel—is illustrated in Paul’s missionary journey practices as seen in the book of Acts. In Thessalonica, he preached in the synagogue on the Sabbath, where “he reasoned with [the Jews] from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2) as he sought to persuade them that Jesus was the Christ (v. 3). Paul also preached to the gentiles, and these non-Jews too “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). In Athens, after preaching to the Jews in the synagogue, the apostle also engaged gentile hearers in the marketplace, citing their philosophers and poets (Acts 17:17–22, 28). Paul’s approach may have been different when engaging different groups, but the content of the message was always the same—the gospel that included Jesus’ resurrection (vv. 29–31).