Sermon: Evangelistic Living – 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. 

Prayer 

Our Heavenly Father, 

It says in your Word that: 

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. 

We continue to pray for our nation in these divided times. 

Lord, I continue to pray for this church. That with so much disunity and division as we have in our world, that we can be a people whose light shines. I pray that we can be living testimonies to your goodness and grace. 

Lord, let us stand out from the rest of the world and society by our love that we have for one another and for all of your children in our world. 

Lord, as we are called in your word to pray for our leaders, and as we do that regularly, may we pray for those who lead in our community, state, and nation. 

For all of those who are in positions of government, Lord, we pray for revival, and that they be people who know you, fear you, and seek to honor you. 

Lord, we pray for Mayor Chad and the role that he has in leading our wonderful community. 

We pray for Governor Pritzker in his leadership of this great state. 

We pray for President Trump as this term comes to an end. 

We pray for safety in our capitol this week during the inauguration. And we pray for Joe Biden as he prepares to become president. Lord, we pray for wisdom and discernment in leading our nation. Lord, we pray for those who serve and protect our nation in our military. We pray for our first responders: for our law enforcement officers, firefighters, and paramedics. Lord, we pray for our time in your word this morning. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

We’re concluding our new year’s series this morning. 

And really, we’re starting the year talking about some of the important aspects of our faith. 

Two weeks ago, we talked about the importance of personal holiness. 

Last week, we talked about unity as a church. 

Today, we’re talking about the subject of evangelism. 

And much of what I say today, I’m indebted to the work of Sam Chan and a book that he released last year called “How to talk about Jesus (without being that guy).” 

Evangelism is something which all Christians are called to do. 

To share the good news of the gospel. 

But it’s so often such a challenge. It can feel awkward and uncomfortable. We can feel unprepared. If a conversation doesn’t go well, it can be discouraging and make us not want to try. 

Those are all legitimate concerns. 

But it’s still something that we’re called to. 

Jesus gave the Great Commission to his disciples: 

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

Christians are called upon to share the gospel with the world. 

Can that be difficult? 

Yes. 

But that doesn’t mean that we get a pass. 

Because in being disciples of Christ, we’re called to take up our cross and follow him. We’re called to serve him. We’re called to love him, and in loving him, to love God’s children. 

And so the main idea and challenge that I want to get across today is the idea that evangelism is meant to be a way of life. 

I want to have a laser focus on a couple of ideas. 

And that’s why we’re looking at 1 Corinthians 9. 

It’s one of my favorite passages on the subject of reaching people with the gospel. 

I love the heart that we see from Paul in this passage. 

19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. 

That is a life and heart that are dedicated to evangelism and reaching people with the gospel. 

And there’s a lot that can be said about this passage. 

But I want to focus on two aspects of evangelism from Paul that we see in this section. 

It’s relational and it’s practical. 

Relational

Paul talks about his relationship to different types of people. 

He says to the Jews he became as a Jew. 

That doesn’t meant that he threw out the gospel, or the message of Christ. Being all things to all people does not mean you compromise on truth. 

But in his situation, he was around practicing Jews. And so he kept elements of the law such as a Jewish diet when around them. In Acts, we find out that Timothy was traveling with Paul and Paul actually had Timothy get circumcised. 

Did they have to do those things? No. But it was worth doing for the sake of building relationships. 

When Paul was with gentile audiences, he did not concern himself with following the law. 

All things to all people. 

That doesn’t mean we sin. 

We’re still called to pursue holiness. 

But it’s about becoming a servant of God for his purposes. Paul actually uses servant/slave language at the beginning of this passage, and he is putting himself under the authority of God out of gratitude for the grace of God.

Again, we’re not in Paul’s exact same situation. But the main takeaway I want to focus on from those verses is the relational nature of Paul’s ministry to people.

How can we minister to the person who’s maybe been hurt in their church background or who’s been really burned by a church? They might even know their Bible really well.

But perhaps what they need is grace and authenticity.

How can we minister to a person who doesn’t feel worthy of grace? Maybe they’ve lived a really rough life. Maybe they’re ashamed of decisions they have made or the life that they’re living today. Maybe they’ve been beaten down by life and have low self esteem. 

We can show that we care about them. We can show them love and communicate God’s infinitely greater love. 

How can we minister to the person who we’ve talked to before about faith and never seems to want anything to do with it? We can be faithful to being there for them. We can continue to pray for them. 

One of the ideas I really appreciate in Chan’s book is he talks about being a chaplain for your non-religious friends. 

Life is hard. This year has been rough. People have personal issues, family issues. And sometimes we might have a friend who doesn’t have real relationships with many genuine Christians. 

In a time of crisis, we have an opportunity to step into that suffering with them, to walk with them, to pray with them. To be Christ to them. 

How can we minister to the person who disagrees with us? Disagreement is strong in our world. There’s so much division over politics, over Covid, over social issues. 

Relationships and friendships have been destroyed over these areas of disagreement. 

We should be gracious in our disagreements. 

We should commit to ourselves that we’re not the kind of people who let disagreements come between friendships and relationships. 

Because all of those things matter. But none of those things is what brings salvation. 

It is only the gospel which does that. And Christians should not be people who elevate non-gospel issues to that level of importance. 

That is not being all things to all people. 

It’s difficult to build a relationship with a person in order to evangelize them if we make lots of non-gospel matters hills worth dying on. 

It’s important to remember with evangelism that Jesus accepts us where we are. I think Christians too often make the mistake of wanting to save a person to a different behavior. 

I think we can get preoccupied with sins, and lose sight of the fact that even if a person turns from that sin, but does not have the gospel, they’re still dead in their sins. 

It is the gospel that people need more than anything. 

Before I move on, I should also say that my point isn’t that we’re to be disingenuous in our friendships. We should enjoy our friends and appreciate their friendship in and of itself. But for anyone in our lives who is not a Christian, we should also care about seeing them come to Christ. 

So we’ve said evangelism is relational. 

Evangelism is also practical. 

What do I mean? 

We see that in this passage.

Practical 

Here we see that Paul’s approach to evangelism is practical. 

 I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. 

He becomes all things to all people so that some can be saved. 

We don’t have to save the world. 

But if we’re not careful, it can be really easy to look around and realize that we don’t even have one person in our life who we’re working to share the gospel with. 

Paul had an evangelistic lifestyle in the hope that SOME would be saved. 

That’s all we can do. 

We can’t control the results. But we can control how faithful we are. 

We become all things to all people so that by all means we might save some. 

Last year, I discussed evangelism, and I want to repeat one of the ideas I talked about this. I get this from Randy Newman, who was my evangelism professor at Trinity. 

He wrote out the alphabet. A to Z. 

Z is a person coming to faith. 

A is a person who is as far from God as you can be. Ardent atheist, hostile to the gospel and to the idea of God. 

Now people who are unbelievers are at different points all along this scale. 

Some are very warm to the gospel. Some are indifferent and some are opposed to Christianity. 

Now if someone is really far from God, it can be tough to have one conversation and seal the deal. 

Evangelism takes time. 

I think we often think of evangelism and associate it with the Billy Graham crusades during his ministry.

He’d present the gospel and you’d see hundreds of people coming forward to commit to Christ. 

I think that part of what was happening is that you had a lot of W’s, X’s, and Y’s coming forward. People who were already pretty warm to the gospel, and who just needed one last push.

They were people who were already willing to go to an evangelistic rally. 

Often, Christians would invite friends to Billy Graham Crusades. They were people who were willing to go with their friends. 

Again, a lot of those people were probably further down the line. 

And we still have friends like that today. 

But then and now, you also had plenty of people who would not have gone to an event like that, who would not want to set foot in this church or go to a Bible study. Who are not going to be interested in a 20 minute gospel presentation. 

And for those people, we must be relational. 

And our goal with non-Christians friends and family must be to see them come to faith in Christ. 

It won’t happen all at once. It can be a long process. It can take years, and even then, with certain relationships, it might not ever happen.

We don’t control the results, we just control how faithful we are. 

And all of this is why I say it’s a lifestyle. 

But it’s one we’re called to live. 

We’re to go out into the world and spread the good news of the gospel. 

I read a story this week. This happened in 1998, that a young man named Chris Sercye was playing basketball with his friends in Chicago. 

While they were playing, a group of three men walked up and shot Sercye. 

Seriously wounded, Sercyce’s friends carried him over 100 yards to the nearest hospital. 

Sercye was in bad shape. 

A friend ran into the hospital to get help. 

The hospital staff refused. 

They said that they could not administer aid to someone outside the building. 

A police officer saw the situation and tried to get a gurney. 

The hospital staff wouldn’t allow it. 

Finally, they were able to get a wheelchair to use to bring the young man into the hospital. 

He died later that day. 

The hospital would not tend to a dying man when he was outside their doors. 

We have a whole world of people who are dead in sin outside this building. 

They don’t have to come in this building to hear the gospel. We must go to them. 

As I close, I wanted to just respond briefly to some of the reasons as to why evangelism can be challenging. 

Reasons why evangelism is difficult 

  1. I don’t know enough. 

We might feel this way about our knowledge of the Bible, our knowledge of theology, our knowledge of objections people have to Christianity and the Church. 

My first response to that would be to remember that evangelism is a lifestyle. 

And that people usually do not get converted from not being a Christian to coming to faith in only one conversation. 

Especially if it’s someone you know personally, you can have other opportunities to talk. 

I think sometimes, it’s reasonable to say “That’s a great question. I’d love to give you a great answer, but can I get back to you on that.” 

Also, it can be a good reminder to us all to read our Bibles and study them more. 

But please don’t let the fact that you don’t feel like you know enough be a reason to keep you from talking to people about Jesus. 

That day will never come. 

  1. I don’t want people to think I’m a weirdo. 

If you’re living a life of integrity and living as a good witness to Christ, even if a person doesn’t agree with what you believe, they’ll respect who you are. 

Again, we can’t be pushy. 

We can’t force someone to believe in the gospel. 

But just be relational, opportunistic, prayerful, and present for the people in your life. 

  1. All of my friends go to church. 

Make some more! 

  1. I’m not good at it. 

Evangelism skills can be developed. 

There are all sorts of books to read on the subject. 

  1. Covid. I can’t evangelize because of Covid. 

We still see people and interact with people. 

We still have phones. 

It’s good to reach out and talk to people. 

Covid is a thing that has certainly brought a lot of loneliness to an already lonely society. 

We have the chance to build relationships with people and be present. 

None of these objections change the fact that God calls us to spread his gospel. 

So I’m not trying to guilt or shame us into evangelism. 

And I should also be upfront that it can be a challenge for me as well. I tend to be more reserved. It’s not what I consider my great strength to be. 

And I know that we have a very churched town, but that doesn’t mean that everyone in our community knows Jesus. 

Because there are plenty of people in Cissna Park, and Paxton, and Loda, and in the surrounding communities who don’t know Jesus. 

And we have a job to do in reaching them. 

And so that’s my encouragement for this year. For the times of Covid. And as we come out of Covid this year and as life returns more and more to normal that we would be a church who’s committed to a lifestyle of reaching people with the gospel. 

Jesus said: The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” 

Let us go into the harvest. 

May we pray for our community. 

May we pray for our relationships and opportunities to serve people. 

May we pray for opportunities to share the gospel and talk about Jesus. 

And may we be proactive in living lives to the glory of God, in seizing opportunities to talk about Jesus and share the love of Christ. May we be intentional in conversations to sometimes go below the surface and talk about important Spiritual matters. May we continue to help seekers along their own Spiritual journey to the foot of the cross.