It seems easier for me to speak to youth using their language to get them to listen. Am I wrong? The churches seem to be changing the rules for their benefit, i.e. gay marriage... I don't mean I plan to use F-bombs; I mean just a little salt here and there to get them to wake up. They can gradually understand and read from the Bible itself and perhaps appreciate the 'Wisdom' on their own.
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Living in the DTES of Vancouver - the poorest and most addicted area in NORTH AMERICA - I understand this temptation. Foul language is all around me everyday, every night and all times inbetween! It is like nails on a chalkboard to me for it allows satan an entry into that person's life through the profanity used, and I can barely believe that only 2 short years ago i used to talk exactly the same! Praise the Lord! But I honestly couldn't disagree more that this would be the way to reach them or to demonstrate Christ's love because I remind myself that I am supposed to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and I may be the only Jesus some people meet. So I ask myself: Would Jesus swear, or be profane? I think not... there is but one scripture that I know of that leads one to think this is the way to 'win' people over to Christ and Paul wrote it: 1 Corinthians 9: 19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. 20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; 21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. 22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you." I interpret this as meaning, if I am in a crowd of DTES residents, then I have to fit in among them, not stand out, in order to be accepted, but I don't need to swear or be drunk or do drugs or be homeless to DO that, at least so far I haven't had to! But then the Holy Spirit guides me otherwise on how to speak to each and every soul down here. If I am at a black tie event, then I would dress appropriately to 'fit in' there too, in order to be accepted enough to be heard, but i don't need to spend money nor drink champagne and get drunk in order to testify about the Good News. This is how I see it anyway. I can't see sinning (swearing colloquially) as being something necessary to win people over to the Lord Jesus, for: Rules for Levitical Priests Ezekiel 44:23 And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. How can we do that when we are using unclean language in order to be accepted? Can't we do that without the language anyway? Aren't we supposed to be new in Christ? I think so! The New Life Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Blessings, in HIM, Lynn
The late David Wilkerson (The Cross and the Switchblade) found his own unique way to reach the gang members in New York. The key is to never cease praying... Allow God to lead you, the Holy Spirit to give you the words when needed. Wilkerson avoided divisiveness, from inappropriate speech to sectarian nonsense. He came across to the young people as real. That's why he was so successful in discipleship. His work to bring future evangelist Nicky Cruz to God can be seen both in Wilkerson's "The Cross and the Switchblade" and Cruz's fabulous book, "Run Baby Run." In fact, trying to imitate ghetto talk or barrio-speak will often make you seem to not be particularly genuine. Wilkerson never talked down to the gang members. His approach was beautifully Christ-like. "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." (Ephesians 4:29) ESV
I can certainly understand the appeal to want to adopt the language of street/gang youth in order be accepted by them, or to somehow try to make oneself appear less intimidating by being more like them. And, as it has been pointed out, Paul stated that he practiced this in various ways in 1 Cor. 9: 22b-23: I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. 23 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. As believers, we have freedom as to how we "become all things to all men," but we need to exercise wisdom in how we do this. My husband and I left our comfortable, suburban life in 1990 to start an inner city ministry called Urban Progress in Portland, Oregon, which we ran for almost four years. We lived right in the heart of the ghetto; drug dealers, gang members, prostitutes, abandoned kids, and other hurting people surrounded us daily. They were our neighbors, and many of them eventually became our friends. In the few short years we ministered there, God blessed our efforts, and when we moved on from UP, we were serving literally hundreds of people every single week in kids' clubs, Bible studies, and discipleship meetings. God did it all; we really didn't have a plan other than to just love people, and God met us and made it work. Here's what still amazes me more than anything: My husband, our partners and I truly stood out like sore thumbs compared to our neighbors. We dressed differently, spoke differently, and even ate differently, and the anointing of God upon us made us just stand out. There were times when some of us tried to fit in by adopting the street language or mannerisms or other things our neighbors did, but most of us didn't try it a second time, and certainly not a third. Why? Because we looked even weirder trying to be like them than we did when we were just being ourselves. It just doesn't work to try to be someone you're not. Besides, our charge is actually not to try to imitate others; rather, it's to imitate Christ: Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Cor. 11:1) Here's a great story to illustrate this: One morning a crack addict knocked on our door. To make a long story short, my husband and our ministry partner led him to Christ, then he crashed on our couch for a few hours before going to see his parole officer. He'd been up for three days and nights straight smoking crack, and hadn't eaten in that time. When he awoke, I served him coffee and breakfast, then let him use our shower to clean up. When he finished, he went out to our front porch to smoke. God nudged me to go out and talk to him, and I made excuses: "Father, what am I going to say to him? We have nothing in common! It'll just be SO WEIRD!" God kept nudging me, and reluctantly I finally went out and joined him on the front step. Here we sat: A pregnant, goody-goody pastor's wife and a crack addict living on the streets, sitting in the sun on a porch step, as I tried to avoid breathing his cigarette smoke. One could hardly imagine two more opposite people paired together, but believe it or not, God caused this incredible connection to happen between us. I still smile as I recall that conversation. He was so touched by the kindness I showed him that morning that he told my husband, "That woman--she is JESUS!" Even more than that, I found that we had more in common than one would suppose. The human thread and our need for God that we all share can very quickly enable us to look past the things we think are bound to separate us, and in turn they can create a God-inspired bond that edifies us and glorifies our Heavenly Father. We don't have to try to fit in; rather, as we imitate Christ, God makes a way for us to fit in on His terms and by His power. I authored a book about our inner city experiences if you want to read more: Extraordinary Lives of Ordinary Fools, available as a Kindle book on Amazon.com.
I understand why this question is asked, because it is very tempting when our motive is the right one, to join in with the world. However, it seems to me that it is enough to just quote the scripture. The bible tells us that 'we are IN the world, but not OF the world.' In Romans 12:2 it says "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind..." In John 15:19 it says "if you were of the world, the world would love you as it's own, but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of this world, therefore the world hates you" (both ESV). If we talk like those in the world we are trying to reach, no matter how good our motives, we may find that the world loves us and listens to us, but they will not hear Christ through us. It is Christ who saves, not us, and we must leave it to Him, even if we are personally rejected. I hope that helps.
In my humble opinion using the street language of our day to reach the growing number of unreachable and lost, while remaining veritable (authentic) to the gospel message is acceptable. To boldly go where others may have some reservations or fear and preach the gospel is a very good thing,. May the Lord keep, protect and bless your labors for His kingdom and society Martin. Paul the Apostle wrote that he became all things to man that he might win a few for the kingdom. His lesson to us is that first they must stop and listen and then the gospel message itself will penetrate and change the heart of evil man. Consider for a moment; that if you only change one heart from the path of violence and sometime in the future this allows someone's innocent father, mother, daughter or son to return home safe, then indeed you have done well my brother. In the Lord's freedom setting the captives free.........warrior on
So much of the "church" right now is offering what is basically a secularized, feel-good form of Christianity. The young men of which you speak are not going to be truly converted either by "Christianity-lite" OR by the message that "be good and you'll get to heaven." If they are truly converted it will be because 1) they see in you and other church members a love and a "something else" that they don't have and 2) God opens their hearts to respond to the message that Christ is the only answer to their sinful condition. They can't deny that the "wages of sin is death." People often say that the Gospel is not "relevant" today; yet I cannot think of anything MORE relevant than an eternity with God or an eternity in Hell. In one sense, you might have things a little easier here than some suburban pastors; these kids probably have not illusions that they're "good kids." Rather than speaking to them in vulgar language, which Christians aren't to do, you could, however, use the many verses in scripture that talk about poverty, violent men, having to love God more than family & friends, judges and courts, how worldly people hate each other, and what happens when you die. I would guess that all of these would be very familiar to these young men. Some of them might also already be convinced that there is a spiritual world, although their conception of it might be more superstition or pagan. Over-arching all of these they need to know that God can call men and women out of the worst lifestyles, even from persecuting the church itself (Paul), and change them spiritually. Your church is really going to have to be ready to deal with the consequences of these young men turning to Christ; possibly you already have programs in place. If these young men are saved and turn away from their gangs, their lives may be in danger and some of them may even lose their homes and friends. They may need places to live and the necessities of life. There may also be legal issues that have to be confronted if some of them confess to crimes. I have become more convinced of the doctrine of election over the years, and through it we can know that God has probably chosen some of those young men (and women) regardless of how rough they appear to be now. Through your preaching of the Gospel, some of them will be convicted. It may take a while for the seeds to grow, and some may fight it emotionally as they have to consider how to restructure their lives.
Why do we as Christians have to change in order to witness to young people or "gang members?" I work with gang members everyday and they know I'm a Pastor and since I don't try to be somebody I'm not, they respect who I am and what I stand for, The Lord Jesus Christ. Honesty and commitment are what them along with the Holy Spirit. I thank God that He can use me to reach the unreachable.
The most important thing to understand is that we are completely, 100% incapable of succeeding at any kind of ministry that honors God, unless we learn to let God operate in HIS strength, through us, and we need must not try to MIX "light" with "darkness" in our efforts. Some very clear guidelines that God gives us include: God is 100% holy, sinless and pure all the time. The Bible is very full of (more than 650) verses about this, but just a few that could be reviewed include: Ex 3:5; Ex 20:25 26; Lev 20:26; Isa 6:17; Rev 4:8. Since God's goal for all saved people is to abide with Him in that place of 100% holiness and purity, and since we cannot produce that necessary holiness & purity from within our human nature, it must be accomplished by the work of God the Holy Spirit in our lives. "...He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness." From Heb 12:10 NASB. "...evil will not deliver those who practice it." from Eccl 8:8 ".... he who is perverted in his language falls into evil." Prov 17:20 "With the pure Thou dost show Thyself pure, And with the perverted Thou dost show Thyself astute." 2 Sam 22:27 God says of Himself: "All the utterances of my mouth are in righteousness; There is nothing crooked or perverted in them." Pr 8:8 "The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom, But the perverted tongue will be cut out. The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable, But the mouth of the wicked, what is perverted." Pr 10:31 32 Jesus said: "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing." Jn 15:4 5 "For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Rom 8:5 8 "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day." John 6:44 "'....Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts." From Zech 4:6 God also says: "Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, "I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. "Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate," says the Lord. "And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. "And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me," Says the Lord Almighty." 2 Cor 6:14 18 "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you." Phil 4:8 9 "This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls." Ja 1:19 21 "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification..." from Eph 4:29
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