By Sam Greer
Senior Pastor, Red Bank Baptist Church, Chattanooga
One hot and humid Mississippi day, I was jogging on a neighborhood street. The last leg of the run was uphill. About half-way up the hill, I noticed an SUV coming down the hill. While panting for air and pouring sweat, I realized the vehicle was drawing closer to me. The window rolled down and an arm extended out with a cold, refreshing soft drink in hand. I grabbed the soft drink and said “thank you!” At that moment, I heard the lady in the front seat of the SUV scream, “Wait, stop!” I stopped. The SUV stopped. The lady who handed me the drink said, “Could you open this bottle for me?” As they pulled away, the lady in the front seat laughingly said, “He thought that drink was for him.”
The ladies in that SUV held what would have quenched my thirst, but they kept it for themselves. Followers of Jesus hold what a lost and thirsting world needs, the good news of Jesus. How ashamed I am of all the times that I have been ashamed of the gospel. In this week’s lesson, Paul makes it clear that every follower of Jesus must take personal evangelism personally. How can we take personal evangelism personally?
Your role is to have gospel conversations. In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Paul communicated that he forfeited all his rights for the sake of sharing the gospel with as many people as possible. Our primary calling is to call people to call on Jesus as Savior and follow His call on their life. We accomplish this gospel calling one conversation at a time.
One of the first steps in having gospel conversations is to speak the language of the people with whom you are speaking. Speaking a person’s language is more than speaking their native dialect; it includes transitioning to the gospel through their interests. Influencing others for Christ is realized when we put the interests of others before our own. Paul became as a Jew to the Jews, as a Gentile to the Gentiles, as one under the law to those under the law and as one outside the law to those outside it (1 Corinthians 9:19-21). He became all things to all people in order to connect people to Jesus one conversation at a time (1 Corinthians 22-23). In order to share the gospel with all, Paul sought to speak the language of all. We would do well to seek to speak the language of others one conversation at a time.
Another step in having gospel conversations is to use the language of those with whom you are sharing to speak about the Lord. At first glance, it seemed that Paul was a sports fan as he spoke of athletics often (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). He knew, however, that Corinth was the location of the Isthmian Games, which included races and boxing. Paul implored the Corinthians to run their own race with discipline and self-control. Paul was training the Corinthians to speak the language of others by speaking the language of the Corinthians.
The goal is gospel conversions. Twice, Paul mentioned the goal of engaging in gospel conversations (1 Corinthians 9:22; 10:33). The prize of engaging in gospel conversations is gospel conversions. To see this become a reality, we must practice sharing our faith. No runner runs a race without practicing. Speak the language of others and practice sharing your faith with one another. Believers, if we are not sharing our faith with one another we will never share our faith with others.