In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 Paul writes what some have called the "evangelist's manifesto" It reads like this:
"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*
This passage reveals the heart of Paul and his way of approaching the task of evangelism - or sharing the good news with people. He was passionate about telling others the good news and went to any length to introduce people to Jesus Christ.
As we look at this passage, I believe there are three very important things we can learn from Paul when it comes to influencing people for Christ. 1) We must SERVE people 2) We must "SEE" people and 3) we must SHARE with people in order to influence them toward faith in Jesus Christ. Keep in mind, this influence is not a mere human act leading to their salvation but rather, through the work of the Holy Spirit, a supernatural influence in partnership with God, the author of salvation.
In this post, I will focus on what it means to serve people and how important that is in leading others to faith in Jesus.
To serve others is to put their needs and interests before your own. It doesn't mean that you think any less of yourself by doing so; it means that you simply don't think of yourself at all. Paul said he voluntarily became a servant to everyone so he might lead them to faith in Christ.
This statement reveals an attitude of humility which is often not found in the hearts of many modern Christians. So many people want to be served - have their own needs met - instead of serving others. I have often heard people say, "I didn't get anything out of that sermon." They complain if the pastor or one of the church staff members fails to meet their expectations. They see themselves as the ones to be ministered to, rather than the ones to do the ministry. This is an attitude that is inherited from our culture and not from Christ our example.
A genuine demonstration of servanthood speaks volumes to our self-centered culture. First of all, it is so rare to see someone with a servant spirit, that it is novel and thus attractive. Second, people have so many needs - most of which are ultimately spiritual - that are unmet by the drivel offered by the world. Meeting these needs can be a bridge to sharing Jesus with people.
The question we must ask is "are we serving others?" What are we doing to meet the felt or perceived needs of the people in our circle of influence? God has entrusted us to share the gospel with them. Serving others leads to saving them.
For the believer, a servant attitude is something that has to be developed. Here is an acronym that describes what it means to serve.
S - Self must decrease
E - Elevate others
R - Resist pride
V - Value people
E - Enter into the lives of others
A missionary was conversing with a native one time. This native said, "you built a bridge of love between my heart and your heart and Jesus walked over." What a powerful statement! This missionary served the needs of the native and the result was salvation.
In way of application, what do you need to do to develop this essential servant attitude? What must change in order to make that happen? What are some of the ways you can serve the people in your circle of influence?
In my next post, we will talk about seeing people...
*I chose to use the Message paraphrase instead of a traditional translation because of the clarity of this passage.