What do these comments have in common?
- “We don’t have to reach out to our community. They know where we are. Let them come if they want to come.”
“That new translation of the Bible sounds like it is right off of TV. In an attempt to be modern, it loses the dignity of the version I learned when I was young.”
- “That contemporary service dumbs down worship. It’s an insult to God.”
- “I want my children in church with me. That is the way I grew up.
- “Those teenagers ought to dress better for church. Their clothes are disrespectful.”
In Luke 10:8, Jesus said “Eat what is set before you.” In this context, He was sending out the 70 disciples. He told them to preach, teach, heal the sick, and drive out demons. “Eat what is set before you.” What does that mean?
Luke 10:8 is a universal principal for every Christian. It is one of the most valuable teachings of “Missionary 101” for Christians today. When you are serious about reaching anyone for the Kingdom, the more mature Christian always subordinates his/her agenda and comfort to that of the person they are trying to reach — as long as it does not compromise biblical teaching.
The apostle Paul said “I will become all things to all people that by any means some might be saved.” Every great movement of Christianity has been accompanied by contemporary music, new Bible translations, new styles of worship, and new ways to reach out to people. God does His best work through those who are willing to put aside stylistic ways that have become comfortable in order to reach others.
As I travel overseas, teaching pastors, I have practiced this principle, to “eat what is set before you.” I have eaten some things that aren’t on my cultural menu: elephant, zebra, hippopotamus, mopani worms, dog — you get the idea! Why? Because as mature Christians, helping emerging Christians, we are willing to sacrifice our comfort for the sake of others. It’s a servant’s approach. Missionaries don’t demand that people do everything “the way we have always done it.” That would be evangelist imperialism: I am better than you are, my way is better than yours. That was the style of the Pharisees, not Jesus.
Focus on these issues:
- Christians, do not put the responsibility on others to find the church, or the truth.
- The use and style of a particular language, is a strategic issue, based on whether or not the message gets through to the intended audience, not what is familiar to the one doing the outreach.
- Worship in the heart language of the target group always delivers more meaning.
- Another style of worship that is different from your heart language isn’t necessarily inferior. It is just different.
- Parents, being more mature Christians than their children, should want to worship with their children. So, go with them and sit on the floor in children’s church. You don’t want to practice parental chauvinism either. Many have done that and lament that their children have “drifted from the church.”
- Be cautious about judging others by their outward appearances. You can not see into their hearts. If teenagers are dressed differently than your standard, rejoice and thank God that they are in church.
Let the person you are reaching set the menu. Don’t risk the relationship and an opportunity to bring Christ by offending those who eat strange foods, like different music, or are used to different styles. It is Missionary 101. Eat what is set before you! It is an act of grace.
How do you let the person you are reaching set the menu? We welcome your comments below.
Kent Hunter, founder of Church Doctor Ministries, is known as the Church Doctor. His most recent e-books are The Future Is Now and The J-Dog Journey, available at no cost. Contact him at (800) 626-8515, by email, Twitter, Facebook, or visit www.churchdoctor.org.