What are you not willing to give up in order to reach people for Christ? This is a question that was asked in a group discussion at a previous church I attended. It is a question worth considering as individuals and as a congregation. The Scripture does say that we should be willing to reach out to people where they are (1 Corinthians 9:19-23; 10:31-33; Matthew 9:10-13). But it gets more complicated than that. The one thing we cannot give up is the message (Galatians 1:8,9; John 14:6; Acts 4:12). At the heart of this is the cross of Christ, that He died and rose again so that those who put their faith in Him will be saved (1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Romans 3:21-31; Colossians 2:9-15). And we are told that this is a stumbling block to those outside of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2 Corinthians 4:3,4; 1 Peter 2:4-8). But the question still needs to be asked, are people stumbling over the message or are they stumbling over us?
Now there are a couple of issues that must be faced from the outset. We cannot make the things that please people the ultimate criteria of what we do (Galatians 1:10; Proverbs 29:25; Matthew 6:1-18). And if we do there is a real danger we will end up losing the message and then we will have nothing to offer people. Further, there is a place for not simply going along with people’s unbiblical requirements (Matthew 15:1-14; Luke 13:10-17; Galatians 2:11-16). But too often we can fail to reach out, not because we are genuinely concerned with following God, but because it violates our comfort zone. And there is the danger of seeing the church as a closed club that we will let people into if they will accept our traditions and meet our standards. But we must not water things down or make them superficial just to cater to people. There is also the fact that we are not going to be able to please everyone. But the real question is, are we really trying to reach people who need Christ? And are we willing to give up the things we might prefer to do so as to reach people? Are we willing to find ways to eat with tax gatherers and sinners? This comes back to the most basic issue, of whether we genuinely love God and our neighbor (Matthew 22:34-40; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:13,14) But I am convinced that the first step is to look at our own hearts and honestly ask the question, what am I unwilling to do or not to do to reach people for Christ? And is this something that is a genuine concern as to whether I am doing the right thing? Or does it simply reflect what I happen to like and am unwilling to change? These are not always easy questions to answer, but we need to be willing to ask them.