Be a reliable witness of the truth
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.
1 Cor. 1:10
At first glance, Paul’s plea for agreement in 1 Corinthians might look like a call to sameness. However, later in this letter, Paul tells the Corinthians that they all have different gifts, functions, and authorities in the body of Christ, emphasizing the distinctions between them and the interdependence those differences create (12:1-30).
How can that happen if everyone is so “perfectly united in mind and thought”? How can that be possible when the body of believers comprises people of so many backgrounds, social statuses, cultures, and preferences? And are we supposed to make all new disciples look, sound, and act exactly as we do?
The answer, of course, is no, and the key is unity. We will never find unity in trying to force uniformity. The former is peaceful, loving, and involves the complementary integration of diverse giftings. The latter is controlled, artificial, and stifles the growth and exhortation of the body of Christ.
Unity in the body of Christ happens when believers agree and collaborate on their kingdom callings and let the Holy Spirit lead them. They support one another in their different functions and they grow in number and faithfulness because of it. Uniformity happens when people try to force everyone into the same (unbiblical) model.
When sharing the good news and teaching the word and discipling others, it’s easy to automatically integrate yourself—your preferences, your culture, your particular local church’s traditions—into the gospel. Bodies of believers who follow the same Jesus argue over preferences of when to take communion and which translation of the Bible to use. We give specific cultural practices spiritual authority as though they were scripture, such as following a certain standard of modesty, observing or not observing holidays, and eating or not eating certain foods. Then we try to foist these practices on everyone else, sometimes before we even share the gospel with them, and wonder why they see Christianity as an arbitrary set of rules.
In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul writes “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (v. 22-23).
In the harvest field, your personal and cultural preferences must be secondary to the kingdom. This doesn’t mean flouting the morality clearly outlined in scripture, but prizing it above all other inputs so that your discipling can be true and free from legalism so the gospel can take the lead.
If we keep fighting just for our preferences, we will only create a culture war by trying to force culture into canon. Instead of fighting or promoting a culture, Christians need to prayerfully pursue the harvest—that is, sharing the gospel and letting the Holy Spirit direct their ministries. If even Jesus said He couldn’t do anything without God the Father (John 5:19-20), then there’s simply no way that we can further the kingdom or even change hearts without letting God lead.
Furthermore, just as you need the Holy Spirit’s leading when teaching the church (would you preach a sermon without consulting scripture or praying first?) you need God’s guidance in the harvest field so that you speak the right word at the right time. Rarely (probably not ever) does a sermon become a sweeping seminar covering every verse in every book of the Bible. Instead, a pastor teaches strategically on a few topics at a time, or the audience would be overwhelmed. As you’re doing harvest field ministry you need the sensitivity to say what the Holy Spirit’s speaking for the time. People might have a lot of problems and sin issues in their lives, but listing every single one at once would probably be overwhelming rather than edifying.
So as you share the good news, remember not to bury the lead. People need to know the good news before they can allow it to transform their lives. And it’s fine to share your way of doing things, but take care that you know the difference between your word and God’s word.
How can you begin today?
Study the Bible (become knowledgeable) and use it as your guide for morality questions
Seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance through prayer continually as you share the gospel