All Things to All People
We all know the inspiring words of Paul the Apostle when he spoke about evangelism in 1 Corinthians 9:22: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”
To pioneer evangelists, this sort of thing comes naturally. Contextual evangelism: finding the best and most appropriate way to communicate to the people group we find ourselves with. In other words, being all things to all people.
Most of my ministry is with children, so I have to constantly think like a child when it comes to spiritual things, and keep my words jargon-free and simple while still communicating deep, profound mysteries of God. Luckily, children are better at understanding these things than me, and most times I end up learning from them!
But what if a few adults are also in the room? Do I communicate contextually with them as well, or stick to focusing on the children? How can I be all things to all people with more than one age group present? Where do I pitch what I am saying?
Not only that, the children and adults in the room happen to represent many church backgrounds and traditions and are at different stages in their faith. Some are mature Christians. Some are newer Christians. Many may have no knowledge or experience of the Bible at all.
Let’s throw one more factor into the mix: everyone in the room is from a tough, urban estate with its attendant social, practical and ethical issues. It is now clear that that room is made up of individuals, not people groups, and each one there has their own specific needs and issues.
Help! I am now being pulled in so many directions. How can I be all things to so many people at exactly the same time?
If you find this happening in your ministry, don’t fret. There are many online resources to aid with intergenerational evangelism in deprived contexts.
Unlock helps urban churches of any denomination to respond to the challenges in their areas. They are especially concerned with Bible engagement with ‘traditional tabloid’ (‘non-book’, ‘oral learners’, or ‘text-shy’) cultures. There are many free downloadable resources on their site.
Urban Expression (Baptist/Anabaptist) is an urban mission agency that focuses on relevant expressions of the Church in under-churched, urban and marginalised communities. Their webinars can be found here and they have a number of thought-provoking books.
Eden (part of The Message Trust) plants churches in inner urban estates. An mp3 of their 2013 talk at New Wine, Growing Church on an estate or in an inner city environment, is available for just £3. Their website is: https://joineden.org if you want to find out more.
BRF have produced a report looking at Messy Church in deprived contexts.
Finally, keep an eye on the Church Army resources page. Soon to come will be a new site called Equip, with helpful webinars from practitioners and thinkers. There is also why on earth…? which is a lively collection of sessions for small groups, containing simple animated videos, addressing some of the difficult questions of faith.