A car out of alignment is a major pain. It constantly pulls in the wrong direction, and until it is fixed, the only option is to overcorrect in the opposite direction. This takes a lot of work and makes driving a serious pain, particularly depending on the extent of the problem. In many ways the Christian life is precisely like this. Consider Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:19.
19 Although I am a free man and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people.
In the church there is much talk about being a slave to Christ, or even a slave to righteousness, and rightly so. Both of these concepts are familiar within the biblical record. We are called to be slaves in both of these ways. I might even suggest that most Christians are familiar with this kind of verbiage, even though we are admittedly often uncomfortable with its application. However, in this passage, Paul introduces an entirely new form of slavery that he says is a controlling reality in his life and ministry, one that makes the average Christian, and even the average church, fairly uncomfortable; namely that of being a slave to those who do not yet know Christ. He claims, in verse 19, to make himself a “slave to everyone”. We know that this “everyone” is a reference to the lost population of the globe because his stated desire for enslaving himself to these people is that out of this group might come many who would choose to follow Christ.
This concept is extremely foreign to many within the church. While many Christians and churches speak well of living in such a way so that those who are apart from God might believe in him, a cursory glance into most Christian’s lives and the calendars and budgets of most churches will reveal exactly the opposite, namely that we generally live for ourselves – for those who already know Christ. In other words, if Paul is providing the appropriate direction, the “car” that is the average Christian life and church, is seriously out of alignment.
I know in my own experience as a pastor, through the years there have been a number of occasions where church members have come to me and expressed displeasure in the amount of time/energy/finances being spent on mission, and have strongly encouraged me to see those things redirected towards efforts within the church. Usually these requests are couched in terms of “needing more discipleship” or the “importance of going deeper” or even “caring for each other”, but when it comes down to it, they are always an effort to redirect the church from those who do not know Christ, to those who do know Christ. I have never had a member come to me and complain that we are spending too much on ourselves, and ask us to redirect funds and personnel to those who are outside the church and do not know Christ. Why not? Because we are, by nature, selfish. We choose to think of ourselves first, and not those who are apart from Christ. Again, we are cars out of alignment.
So, what is the answer? Pastors, you have to lead. When the car is out of alignment, you grab the wheel and point it in the right direction. It is time for a little redirection in the lives of most Christians and most churches.
Ask yourself, who do you exist for? Of course the overarching answer must be to bring glory to God, but are you bringing him glory by chaining yourself, becoming enslaved, to those who are yet to know him? The anser to the alignment issue is to point the “car” in the right direction, this time by intentionally focusing on those who do not know Christ, and adjusting who we are, and how comfortable we are, in an effort to help them know and believe in Christ. Consider the words Paul offers immediately after verse 19.
20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law—to win those under the law. 21 To those who are without that law, like one without the law—not being without God’s law but within Christ’s law—to win those without the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some.