I often get blamed for being a pragmatist. I guess that’s supposed to be an insult designed to shock me into getting back on track biblically.
The reason I get called that is because I talk and teach strategy.
I’m always asking the question “what’s working now” in local church evangelism so that I can communicate actionable steps a pastor can take to lead his church to reach his community with the uncompromised Gospel.
But here’s the truth: It’s a set of biblical principles that push me to think this way. It doesn’t matter to me if it sounds pragmatic or not. Pragmatic can be confused with practical, or one can use them interchangeably. (Usually nobody defines that anyway.)
Call it what you want. Because *cough* it’s in the Bible.
The Bible itself, namely Paul, gives us three markers of a Gospel-driven ministry – as his was. These markers comprise a filter, a template, and a lens through which we can measure our own ministry as it relates to the Great Commission.
And these three things will push us to think more strategically, more practically… not less, all while we are praying, seeking, and asking God to do the Gospel work that only He can do in the hearts of the lost.
So, here’s the text (and anyone who refutes being strategic, practical, or intentional in evangelism either must ignore this passage altogether or attempt to butcher it through faulty hermeneutics). “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them… I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” (1 Cor. 9:19, 22)
When you read that, you see quickly that Paul’s evangelism pedal was clearly pressed to the floorboard. You are peeking into the heart of a man so changed by the Gospel that spreading it became the incessant pull of his heart to “win more.”
In only a few lines the Word reveals the inevitable markers to a Gospel-driven life and ministry. They are…
Paul was not only a Jew, but a Roman citizen. Roman citizenship came with certain privileges and legal rights not afforded to every Jew living in the Empire. In spite of that privilege, he willingly chose to take on the role of a “bond servant,” a doulous, a “slave” to win more to Jesus.
In other words, he voluntarily handcuffed himself to evangelism and would not let it let him go. The Great Commission mandate took ownership of his life and became the dominant influence on his daily thinking, planning, goals, and schedule.
Paul sums up that he has “become all things to all people” in order to win them to Christ. In the larger passage, he goes into more detail, giving a litany of different extremes of types with whom he would build relationships for the Gospel’s sake.
When seeking those who would become targets of his personal witness, neither ethnicity, socio-economic background, nationality, nor theological persuasions ever impacted his decision as to whether or not he would engage.
It was quite the opposite, actually.
The implication here is that, as message bearers, we are to study those to whom we will share and allow what we learn about them to modify our tone, vocabulary, sensitivity, and pacing so that we can fully adapt.
Why do we do this? We adapt so that we can adequately and creatively contextualize our approach for their best understanding of a Gospel that does not change.
“By all means” not only denotes Paul’s passion, but his willingness to be creative in how he gets the message of Christ to his intended audience.
The phrase literally means “in any and every way possible.” In other words, when reaching people for Jesus, no “possible means” were off the table. (There is only one way to get to God and that’s through Jesus; but there are many ways to get people to Jesus.)
The Mars Hill episode of Acts 17 is a grand example of the creativity in strategy that Paul used in reaching a pantheistic set of worshipers. The Gospel-driven life demands “by any means” thinking. It refuses to get pigeon-holed into just one way of evangelizing.
It’s not tracts or social media. It’s both, and more … oh, so much more.
Creating proclamation events at one’s church, inviting people to Sunday worship, sharing one’s testimony on Facebook, texting someone a link to a Gospel presentation on YouTube, leaving a tract with one’s tip at a restaurant – any of it, or all of it gets employed.
The fact is, one cannot be urgent without being strategic. If a house is burning down and loved ones are inside, you don’t care how the water gets on the fire – bucket, hose, fire truck, squirt gun. When there’s a fire, you’re grabbing whatever strategy gets you the most results the quickest.
We must be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking there’s only one way to get the Gospel to lost people. Nothing could be further from the biblical truth.