"I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some."
This verse has been floating through my mind quite a bit lately.
Selfishly, I want our church to have a fabulous youth program. Who doesn't, right? Especially parents who have youths whose spiritual growth matters to them.
So, selfishly, I've been reminding Isaac of all the ways he can contribute to a good, strong youth program.
The one that I feel the antsiest about: "Isaac, just remember--when a handsome, confident, outgoing kid like you asks other kids to come to church, they're more likely to accept than if I do."
This is the absolute truth, of course. Adolescents are fairly shallow, more likely to be persuaded by attractive, popular, trendy, and successful folk than by homely, unnoticed, stable (boring!), or struggling folk. And they are almost pathologically ready to be influenced by other shallow adolescents. A kid like Isaac has sway with his peers, and if he uses that leverage to get kids into the church, all the better for everyone.
It's the absolute truth, but is it the gospel truth?
Is this what Paul is talking about? To the Jews I became like a Jew, to those not having the law I became like one not having the law, to the weak I became weak, to the pathologically shallow I became shallow too?
Paul is saying that he'll use whatever leverage he has to share the gospel, yes. So, if a bunch of teens who don't know anything are more willing to learn something from someone who is attractive and confident and smart and fun . . . well, then they'll be willing to learn something. And that's good.
Are there some forms of leverage that make it impossible to share the gospel? Yes, absolutely. Coercion and violence are so incompatible with the gospel that whenever they are yoked to it they destroy it.
Is shallowness in the same category?
I hope not. But I fear it might be.
I do think the Adam Hamiltons of the church are a blessing to the church. I do think attractive, winning, strong, outgoing folk have gifts that can be used in service of the gospel. I'm glad to have people listen to folk that are both faithful and popular.
But the Marva Dawns of the church are pretty darn worth listening to, too. (I hope she wouldn't mind the comparison.) It takes more of an effort to remember to listen to the frail, the frumpy, the old, the weak, the stuttering, the self-effacing, the smelly, the struggling. (Not that Marva Dawn is all, or any, of those things. Her personal presence is less obviously powerful and attractive than Adam Hamilton's.) But their words, or at least the effort of listening to them, may be the more important.
Perhaps at the very least, if we're willing to use the Adam Hamiltons and the Isaacs of the world to save some, we should be even more attentive to making sure those who are being saved are saved from their propensity to be influenced by the Adam Hamiltons and the Isaacs of the world.
What do you think?