Evangelists, Missionaries, And The Church Cannot Please Everyone
God calls all kinds of people to witness to “other all kinds” of people. Jesus Christ loved His elect from all walks of life whether it was differing social classes or even races. Jesus had the goal of witnessing to the Jews, but never rejected the foreigner or mixed race that he encountered on his evangelism journeys in Israel. He witnessed to pharisees, sadducees, beggars, both men and women, prostitutes, tax collectors, children, Italian Roman soldiers, Samaritan half-breeds, rich people, as well as obedient followers of God, and other types of sinful people. Jesus defied social and cultural expectations to promote the true gospel of God’s grace while never compromising the truth.
In Luke 8:40-48 there is a story about Jesus walking through a crowd and a sick woman who had menstrual bleeding for twelve years touched the hem of his robe and she was instantly healed. Jesus noticed someone touched Him because power went out of Him and He asked who it was. Everyone else denied they did it and at the same time the crowd was mobbing Him. The disciples were trying to push Jesus through the crowd and help Him through. The woman trembled and fell before Jesus and told Him why she did it and Jesus then said to her that her faith has made her well. The passage shows that the people’s reactions were negative towards her touching Him. This was because Jesus Christ was a very important person and many people had a lot of respect for Him. The disciples were upset with her action of touching Jesus and were upset that a woman touched Him, and believed she was not worthy enough to touch Him. Christ seemed to have defied the general idea of everyone else and welcomed her. This would have let everyone know that their way of thinking was wrong and it must have baffled them. In some cases it must have caused certain people, like the Pharisees to reject Him and claim He is not a true prophet. While in other cases it would show other people that Christ even cares about women, and even the lowliest kind of person which would cause Him to be more attractive to them.
In Luke 7:36-50 there is the story about Christ reclining at the table in a Pharisee’s home and an immoral woman came in and poured fragrant oil on his feet and washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. This caused the people with Him to be shocked. Especially the Pharisee whose home Christ was in. The Pharisee said that Jesus could not be a prophet, because if He was then He would have to have known what kind of woman this was. Christ answered him and said that one who is forgiven more loves more than one who is forgiven less. With this action of accepting this woman to wash His feet, the Pharisee rejected Christ as a prophet because he was too involved with the social norms and pride of being in an authoritative position and not allowing lower people to touch him. On the other hand the fact Jesus was inside and eating at the table of a Pharisee’s household would have shown the unreligious and common people that Jesus might think He is too important to care for them. So both issues are present in this story that Jesus did not care about what people thought of Him and only did the will of God without fear of offending unbelievers.
In Luke 19 there is the story of Zacchaeus who, when Jesus came to his town, ran up a sycamore tree to see Jesus over the crowd because he was a short man. Everyone knew of this man as a very sinful person; he was the chief tax collector. Jesus looked up and saw him and told him to come down, and said that He was to stay at his house that night. Everyone around was shocked and baffled because of this. They could not understand why Christ would want to stay at the house of such a great sinner. There was a “holier then thou” attitude in that crowd.
When examining all 3 of these stories one can see that all of Jesus’s actions caused other people to be shocked and angry, and some most likely even rejected Him because of it. Jesus accepted and forgave people who were the most terrible of sinners in the eyes of others. What is significant about these encounters is that He defied the cultural norms of that time. People who were considered holy and righteous men were thought of as better then others. The Pharisees assumed the Messiah would be like one of them and would follow their legalism. They believed that prophets are too good to be wasting time with low class and sinful people and that God is only out to reward perfect people.
On the other hand, the common people believed that the Messiah would probably reign as king to destroy the enemies of Israel, such as the political force of the time: the Roman Empire; as well as reject overly pious and arrogantly self-righteous men such as the Pharisees. Either way, Jesus Christ did not seem to be too interested in how the majority felt on either side. He had a certain type of people He was focused on: the sinful people who would believe in Him and were willing to accept Him and His forgiveness. This is despite social class, or the types of sins people were committing.
This attitude is the same attitude that any evangelist, missionary, or church must have today. All Christians are set out to love and witness to a certain kind of people, or tribe; and no matter what people group the Christian is called to evangelize, the people groups all conform to one tribe which is called the elect! For a missionary, the people they should be concerned about are the people God has laid on their heart to go on a mission to, but it should not only be limited to these people. Their goal is to proclaim the gospel to these people and show them God’s love. This will build trust (which happens only through God’s sovereign will in salvation) in the same way Jesus built trust with different people such as a prostitute, or a Samaritan. They must lower themselves just as Jesus lowered Himself to embrace sinners with God’s love. They have to learn the culture of the people they are living with and play by their culture’s customs, and not bring their own cultural bias into the relationship. Most importantly though, the cultural attitude a missionary should display is that of the culture of Heaven— not as an individual person or people group’s culture. When the missionary goes to the people God has called them to go to they should be concerned with that specific group’s spritual issues. When outsiders of that social class, culture, or tribe, criticize the gospel because of it’s message of love to people some others hate or view as less than them, it does not matter. The missionary should keep preaching and teaching with love to this group. When the gospel is expressed, all walks of life will be convicted of sin and will repent through God’s sovereignty. Just as the beggars as well as Roman Centurians in Christ’s day both believed and confessed their sins and followed God.
With this in mind, the missionaries that are called to a specific people group should not limit their ministry to only that one kind of person. The example of Jesus Christ is that He came for the Jews, yet did not avoid, or ignore gentiles. Likewise, missionaries should witness to their called people group, yet never avoid any outsiders from that group. In our globalized world all kinds of people live in cities or regions. For example, there are many Pakistani’s all over the world, so if a missionary was to witness to Japanese in Tokyo they should not neglect sharing the gospel to any Pakistani’s in the area of the mission. Likewise, if a missionary group is set out to witness to an outsider group within a larger culture such as Chinese immigrants in Germany, they should not neglect the German nationals present in the area and only cater to Chinese people in their church. Pushing one culture away from another only causes the missionaries to push the gospel away from another culture who is being given the gospel. This is sinful.
This same attitude should be used by evangelists of all kinds, whether it be speaking engagements or street/open air preaching. This goes to every day encounters with people in a Christian’s life that need to hear the gospel. One should not only care about homeless, or rich people, but all walks of life including sub-cultures. The Church of Christ is full of every kind of repentant sinner.
A major problem in the church today is that a big majority of churches only cater to a certain kind of people. There are Black churches, White churches, Korean churches, Hispanic churches, Filipino churches and more. There are even race quota churches that pride themselves in being culturally diverse and will stop bringing in a certain race because they have enough of them and the quota of other races must be met. There are young generation churches as well as older generation churches. There are rich churches as well as street churches for the homeless. The church overall should stop only caring about one type of person, but have an intent to make a church full of all types of people. This is not a politically correct plea for diversity in a church. There is the obvious reality that a church is only in one area of town, or a certain community. There will be a majority of one culture in some churches, just as the missionary is called to a certain people group; but this does not mean that Christians should reject the idea of evangelizing other types of people, or stop inviting them to their churches. When different people come to a church they shold be embraced with God’s love and be given an interest.
Another problem is that many churches are busy trying to please unbelievers and their self-righteous judgments against the Christian faith by trying to appeal to their interests, desires, and emotions. One church may have a small group of true believers, but the pastor is busy trying to please a majority of sinners who are unrepentant. This is a sinful attitude. The church was made for the elect: the Christians! It was not made for unbelievers to edify their lusts. Too many churches are weakening the gospel to cater to the sinful flesh of unbelievers instead of nurturing the flock of God’s sheep. This is a terrible thing. Churches die out, or become a heretical liberal social club because of neglect to God’s children. When Jesus Christ was preaching in the stories mentioned above He did not care about offending unrepentant sinners, and only cared about nurting and calling the flock of His Father. There was no compromise!
Jesus preached the bold truth and showed divine love to the people that came to Him. It changed their lives and showed them that He really does care about them and that they are forgiven. Jesus Christ understood the culture of the sinful people and the way they thought. He did not care about social norms, or cultural practices, He simply loved the people and never withheld the news of the brutal wrath of God’s judgment, as well as the ultimate, intense love that God has for His elect.
When a bond of love is developed between two people, it does not guarantee that a third party will benefit from it. An example of this is when Jesus extended grace towards the immoral woman in Luke 7:36-50 and forgave her for her sins. The Pharisee being the third party did not understand this or want to believe Jesus was doing what was righteous. So this bond of divine love with the woman did not benefit the Pharisee’s fleshly, self-righteous desires. In the same way when a missionary makes a bond of trust with a certain people group, he must expect that outsiders probably will not understand it or relate to it. When a church invites different people into its fold some church members will scoff and be upset. When the evangelist witnesses to the outcasts and downtrodden of society, the upper-social class and differing subcultures may view it negatively just as the Jews did in Jesus’s time on earth. Such negative attitudes within a church must be corrected.
The 3 stories mentioned are good examples of how Christians should respond to people God has placed in their lives to witness to, and how they can help change their lives by showing them the grace and love of God. This life-change is eternal and not based on the limited time on earth people live. It is about forgiveness of sins of all categories and intensities. It is that God loves His elect and is full of grace and truth, as well as justice to punish evil and destroy the wicked on the day of judgment. The attitude of the Pharisees is strong still even today, yet it is camoflauged in false humility, class prejudism, and even racism; as well the laziness that comfort within one’s culture brings which keeps people from evangelizing all walks of life. This will always be the case until the return of Jesus Christ in His Second Coming to defeat the Antichrist and reclaim the world as His footstool in Jerusalem. The time is near.