The ministry/missionary world is immersed and exists within a single verse from the Apostle Paul – 1 Corinthians 9:20-23 (full passage below). It’s the passage where he talks about becoming all things to all people so that he might save some of them. This weekend that passage was weighing on me as I dreamt of our coming move to Paris. Two things in particular struck me.
I cannot meaningfully connect with just anyone
This is a difficult thing for me to admit. Over the years I have cultivated a much more conversational demeanor like my dad had. He could talk with anyone, was interested in everyone, and believed everyone had stories and a life that were worth hearing about.
Yet engaging with someone and showing a genuine concern and desire to know them is not the same as forming a meaningful connection with them. This awareness has come as I have amassed more stories from others; yet continue to lack these genuine connection.
These connections appear to require a few key ingredients: mutual interest, cultural commonality, shared passions, shared intentionality, and proximity (physical or virtual). This is an incomplete list but it ought to illustrate how unique these connections are, and that we must treasure them when they occur.
This passage is about a person, not a church.
How obvious is this? Well I missed it for a very long time. Paul was talking about how he interacted with those around him, not how he expected those communities he formed to function. I’m not sure that the churches he started in one area could have transplanted themselves elsewhere.
From the epistles we know that the early churches struggled in different ways, and appear to have had different expressions of the Gospel that Paul committed his life to. From this I draw my belief that every church needs to delve into God seeking to discern how their community would be an expression of the Kingdom of Heaven.
It makes sense that each community would become a unique expression of the creativity, love, compassion, and excitement that God has for creation. Each community would begin uniquely, and would seek to become all things to those they are able to. To me this is the reason for being missional, it is not to buck the ecclesial structure, but to tangibly express hope and love in ways that are most meaningful.
How has this verse impacted you and/or your ministry?
To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.
1 Corinthians 9:20-23