“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NIV)
How can we become all things to all people? And how necessary is it? I mean, if the make-up and demographics of my neighbourhood, city or town are not that diverse (ethnically or economically), do I really need to educate and equip myself for ministry beyond the familiar?
Well, I guess it depends on how much of the kingdom you care to connect with or participate in, because you might be missing out on a lot.
In the book of Acts, the Resurrected Christ said to the apostles that they would be his witnesses in every city, culture and country (Acts 1:8), then a few days later the Holy Spirit empowered these disciples to speak in every language and expression from around the world (Acts 2:8-11), and in every chapter after that we find them making and multiplying disciples and fulfilling the great commission. In other words, Christ has called us, and the Holy Spirit equips us, to be intercultural missionaries anywhere and everywhere.
Followers of Jesus, who are active participants in his story, and not just passive purveyors, invite the Holy Spirit to enliven them, equip them, and dare I say, enflesh them, to be the intercultural body of Christ. Regardless of where they live or what their local, socio-economic-demographics might be, a Spirit-led, Spirit-filled witness is at the ready at all times, and humbly acknowledges their need to know more about Christ’s gloriously diverse and eclectic kingdom come.
You see because the truth is, this world of ours is smaller than ever before, and we are increasingly without excuse of being culturally ignorant and unaware. This is why I appreciate Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Paul’s confession to the Christians in Corinth:
“Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!” 1 Cor. 9:19-23 (The Message)
And don’t you want to be in on it?
At times the effort might seem endless, or the opportunities overwhelming, but the truth is, the story of salvation doesn’t exist apart from it. Just as we need to experience Christ in community, and make a commitment to our local congregation, so do we need to be willing to listen and learn from every nation, tribe and tongue and invite others to do the same.
For the Intercultural Engagement Team, this is our hope and prayer that Free Methodists across this country will reach out and speak up. When a family from a different socio-economic background or newcomers to this country move into the neighbourhood, it will be Free Methodists who humbly offer hospitality in the name of Jesus. When we’re at the local coffee shop, sitting across from friends and neighbours, and something ethnically-ignorant or racially-offensive is said, it will be Free Methodists who graciously and respectfully speak up and offer a Christlike perspective, because we’re compelled to be witnesses of this gloriously diverse and eclectic kingdom come!
In her book, Becoming All Things, Dr. Michelle Ami Reyes reflects on the words of the Apostle Paul and says:
“[Paul is telling] Christians to do whatever it takes, without disobeying the law of Christ, to gain people for Christ, and this includes interrupting cycles of pain, oppression, and injustice in all its forms. We can only do this properly when we step into the shoes of those who are hurting…The only way you can become the weak is by learning to live like those who are disempowered and oppressed, seeing life through their eyes, mourning what they mourn, and fighting against systems of oppression as if they were your own.”
So, you’re invited to join us, as we continue to grow and confess our need to speak less and listen more. To humbly acknowledge areas of ignorance in our lives and ask the Holy Spirit to equip us to be intercultural missionaries, regardless of where we live! Recently the IET recorded a webinar with Dr. Michelle Ami Reyes, and we encourage you to watch and share it with your congregation, and then contact us if you’d like to take some next steps. (Click here to access webinar recording)
Adam Kline | Intercultural Engagement Team