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1Cor 9:19 我虽是自由的，无人辖管；然而我甘心作了众人的仆人，为要多得人。 19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 19 Ἐλεύθερος γὰρ ὢν ἐκ πάντων πᾶσιν ἐμαυτὸν ἐδούλωσα, ἵνα τοὺς πλείονας κερδήσω• 20 向犹太人，我就作犹太人，为要得犹太人；向律法以下的人，我虽不在律法以下，还是作律法以下的人，为要得律法以下的人。 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 20 καὶ ἐγενόμην τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις ὡς Ἰουδαῖος, ἵνα Ἰουδαίους κερδήσω• τοῖς ὑπὸ νόμον ὡς ὑπὸ νόμον, μὴ ὢν αὐτὸς ὑπὸ νόμον, ἵνα τοὺς ὑπὸ νόμον κερδήσω• 21 向没有律法的人，我就作没有律法的人，为要得没有律法的人；其实我在神面前，不是没有律法；在基督面前，正在律法之下。 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 21 τοῖς ἀνόμοις ὡς ἄνομος, μὴ ὢν ἄνομος θεοῦ ἀλλ’ ἔννομος Χριστοῦ, ἵνα κερδάνω τοὺς ἀνόμους• 22 向软弱的人，我就作软弱的人，为要得软弱的人。向甚么样的人，我就作甚么样的人。无论如何，总要救些人。 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 22 ἐγενόμην τοῖς ἀσθενέσιν ἀσθενής, ἵνα τοὺς ἀσθενεῖς κερδήσω• τοῖς πᾶσιν γέγονα πάντα, ἵνα πάντως τινὰς σώσω. 23 凡我所行的，都是为福音的缘故，为要与人同得这福音的好处。 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. 23 πάντα δὲ ποιῶ διὰ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, ἵνα συγκοινωνὸς αὐτοῦ γένωμαι.
This is the Word of God. Introduction
Last week, I went to Atlanta to have one class called “Multi-Ethnic Church/Ministry”. This was a very exciting class, as we discussed the White/Black issue in the States, reflecting on the diversity of the church, and watched Civil and Human Right Center and Martin Luther King, Jr. Park. For me, many of the contents are an eye-opening experience. I also met with Joshua Guo, Living Stone’s former pastor, currently pastoring a church in Beijing.
As I mentioned last Sunday, I am considering being ordained as a pastor. I was not surprised that Joshua may know this, as my sermon audio is on our website, and he occasionally checks my sermons. He flew from Beijing with 12 hours jet lag and apparently very tired, so I did plan to discuss this issue with him, at least not on the first few days. But somehow Tuesday night he picked this topic and tried to persuade me to take a more formal way on my ordination. With exchanging thoughts with another professor, Dr. Shirl Schiffman, I think I need a short Sermon series to make my points clear. For even Elder Ron is a little bit confused on the process, as even Elder Ron participated in Joshua’s ordination, he still does not know how to make a slightly different ordination. So I would like to use two weeks to teach this topic:
Why did I want to be ordained now, not early? And second, what is my understanding of the ordination in the Bible? Theme
So today, I will use 1 Cor. 9:19-23 to answer the first question: Why I want to be ordained as a pastor.
My last week’s class in Atlanta was about multiethnic church. As required reading, I read a book about how to make cross-cultural friends. One of the keys to having cross-cultural friends is to understand other people’s culture. For our purpose today, I only want to point out one element of any giving culture: the context.
Some cultures are high context cultures.
High Context vs. Low Context cultures
High Context Cultures:
the context of an event is as important as the event itself For example, how to ordain a pastor in China? Can you dress causal and lay your hand on a candidate who is very serious and dress like a bridegroom? No, for if you do so, you will offend him. As he may view the context of an event is as important as the event itself.
the listener is responsible for understanding communication You teach Chinese and see they node head occasionally and nobody has any question. What’s your implication? They don’t understand your talking and they don’t want to embarrass you by showing that. They think it’s their own responsibility to understand whatever you say.
there is no distinction between the idea and the person If I don’t like Chen Xie’s prayer, I don’t like the person.
experience is equal in value to fact Shin said because I loved the States, so I left China to be here. Then later when I pointed out Shin deleted 10 years Church financial record, some people did not believe me. Because their experience is equal in value to fact.
life is viewed holistically (Dr. Dixon) If I said to a worship leader, Hi, today your made one note wrong when you sang the second worship song. She may immediately think I don’t like her. For in a high context culture,
Low context cultures:
- the content of the message is more important than the context.
- the speaker is responsible for the communication.
- they and others are defined by their recent achievements. (NFL fires their heroes next year)
- Analytical thinking is preferred.
And also, Chinese culture is a hierarchical culture, which means we Chinese respect seniors, authorities and position. According to the cultural characteristics, if I want to go back to China and serve the broader churches and Christian communities, what should I do when I am still here?
The agenda is to take action and seek clarification in the process, so we all can learn from our experience and grow in some areas who probably never will face intentionally if there is no outside force pushes us to face. And in the process, we learn to love God more and love his people better. I am old enough.
This will not change, as time goes by, I will be older an older, grey will turn white, and I will look like wiser.
Authority, what can I do?
That’s why even I am very busy, I still think it’s worth to get a Doctor degree from CIU.
Do I really need it myself? Not really. For me, the best way to keep my knowledge refresh is to audit some classes free from CIU and forget the degree. But for the purpose of serving Chinese church well, I should take the chance here and get the degree.
My Chinese friend will be familiar with this. When there may be any new visiting scholars in our church, people will tend to introduce their pastor as: Eddy is a very capable man. He was a professor, had his Ph.D. on computer software, had his own company, now is working on the second doctoral degree, etc. Looks like these titles can endorse my theology and my preaching.
I would say you don’t need to change the cultural preference, for I am working on more title as if these titles really mean something.
19 我虽是自由的，无人辖管；然而我甘心作了众人的仆人，为要多得人。 19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 19 Ἐλεύθερος γὰρ ὢν ἐκ πάντων πᾶσιν ἐμαυτὸν ἐδούλωσα, ἵνα τοὺς πλείονας κερδήσω•
When I was young, I did not care about people’s opinion on me. I was a musician, a punk. My hair was longer than Emma. I was arrested at Shanghai Railway Station for my long hair and put into custody with a Tibet person and questioned by police for 30 minutes. But I did not change my lifestyle and I thought that was my freedom.
Then Jesus changed my life. Ok, now I gained true freedom. Even sin cannot control me; I could be nobody’s slave anymore. But if you were here last Sunday and heard my Sermon on Romans 6:15-23, you will know that if we don’t want to be slaves of sin, we must choose to commit to the Lord Christ Jesus. With powerful illustration, Paul says:
Rom 6:22 但现今，你们既从罪里得了释放，作了神的奴仆，就有成圣的果子，那结局就是永生。 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 因为罪的工价乃是死；唯有神的恩赐，在我们的主基督耶稣里，乃是永生。 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I have chosen eternal life. But also, I commit myself as the servant of God. There is a strong calling that I must serve God’s people and share the love of Jesus Christ to those who don’t know Jesus. Only, for this reason, I am willing to pay the tuition and spend time on another doctoral degree. Just like Paul sometime could boast that he was a Jew or a true Jew of Jews, I may someday change my hats and teach Chinese Christians with more authority because I have gone the painful journey of studying, researching and writing a dissertation.
But what about the position?
Next week, I will go to a retreat called the 2nd Carolina Pastors Retreat. Last year I did not go, for David and Lisa both had surgery at that time, removing their tonsils. But when the coordinator of the retreat was calling me, she would say, “Hello is this Pastor Zhang?” And later she found a chance and asked, “Have you been ordained?” I said, “no, not yet.” Then she would say, “would you mind that, according to the tradition of the church, I call you Preacher Zhang? Let’s just show some respect to the tradition.”
I have no problem with the tradition. As Paul says,
20 向犹太人，我就作犹太人，为要得犹太人；向律法以下的人，我虽不在律法以下，还是作律法以下的人，为要得律法以下的人。 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 20 καὶ ἐγενόμην τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις ὡς Ἰουδαῖος, ἵνα Ἰουδαίους κερδήσω• τοῖς ὑπὸ νόμον ὡς ὑπὸ νόμον, μὴ ὢν αὐτὸς ὑπὸ νόμον, ἵνα τοὺς ὑπὸ νόμον κερδήσω•
If this is not a tradition clearly taught in the Scripture, I don’t really need to follow. But for a several days retreat with my family, I am more than happy to be called Preacher Zhang as long as they don’t ask me to preach a sermon.
But there were some other pastors I met once told me, “let us respect the thousands of years of Holy Tradition of the church, and when I introduce you, I will say you are Preacher Zhang.”
So call “Holy Tradition”, This is something theologically I don’t fully agree with. But this does not matter as long as I can preach with the authority of the Scripture. As Paul says,
22 向软弱的人，我就作软弱的人，为要得软弱的人。向甚么样的人，我就作甚么样的人。无论如何，总要救些人。 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 22 ἐγενόμην τοῖς ἀσθενέσιν ἀσθενής, ἵνα τοὺς ἀσθενεῖς κερδήσω• τοῖς πᾶσιν γέγονα πάντα, ἵνα πάντως τινὰς σώσω.
Paul’s purpose was very clear, he was the servant of God, not servant of man. So his identity was not decided by what he looked like, Jew, Greek, strong, weak, under the law, lawless, in prison, freely travel as Roman citizen.
Then he can have the confidence to become all things to all people, then by all means he might save some.
Let me explain a little bit here. As our Chinese translation is, “to Become all men to all people.” But Paul here emphases more on “by all means I might save some” which our translation again not fully convey the original meaning.
The point is not I can choose any means which is unbiblical or immoral to win some people for Jesus. The point here is that Paul will not consider his own identity and reputation, but try to become all kinds of people, meet all kinds of need, by all means save some.
As I shared last Sunday, I want to pursue ordination in the Living Stone Chinese Community Church. But this I have thought about 2 years. There are theological reasons or practical reasons make me postpone the decision. The title does not seem to bother me very much. You don’t have a pastor but a preacher to serve you, seems also not bother you guys very much.
But when I go back to the mission field, having a pastor title may help me to teach God’s truth and save some.
With my old age, Ph.D. plus Doctor of Ministry, then with a few titles like “Pastor Zhang”, I can play some more roles and when I speak, people may pay a little bit more attention.
For me, the reason is good enough.
And I hope you know, Pastor is not a title that means Pastor Eddy is more holy than others, but a role to serve you and serve the church of Christ.
When we come back to today’s passage, we will see some principles of Paul’s Gospel ministry:
- He is free from anybody, only owns Christ.
- He has the strong sense of calling that he will win people to Christ.
- With the calling, he is willing to sacrifice himself to be a servant of all, even to the extent that he wants to identify himself with other people, other culture and other tradition.
- But in the meantime, he is very clear of his own moral standard: he is not bounded by the Jewish law; he is also not lawless but under the law of Christ—love God and love people.
- With this balance, he can become all things to all people, by all means save some.
I would say this passage is one of the key passages which helps me to make my mind that I would like to prepare better for serving my God and my people in China. So whatever extra miles I need to go, if it will by all means same some, I would like to go with my Lord.
I hope you all think about your calling and what the actions you need to take to care others, make friend with one person, having lunch together, knowing more about their story, and try to share gospel to them.
Pray for me and help me to clarify theological issues on ordination next week. Also, give me feedback on how can I improve my ministry. Should I join the campaign of election as president?
Relocation, Redistribution, Reconciliation.
- Paul’s Relocation: Move into the people and live with them.
- Redistribution: Redistribution of the source.
- Reconciliation: with God and with different people.