Typically when we go into a city, I simply want to blend into the environment. I would prefer not to stand out as an out-of-towner…rather I want to fit in as a local. I love to be a chameleon so I can connect for the sake of the Gospel.
Sometimes there is favor and I feel connected. For example, when in North Dakota, I tried to wear a hat that reflected the farming community (thanks to Uncle Bruce). In Richmond, California I felt I needed to wear a hoodie. Hoodies are everywhere. In Seattle, jokingly aside – I would wear a rain jacket (mostly because I needed it).
Sometimes though – it doesn’t work simply because I forgot my environment in which I was in. Case in point – this past week, I walked into a Columbia Cracker Barrel where one of the hostesses made a comment about my orange shirt. She said, “I would simply get rid of that shirt.” I laughed and knew right away what she meant. I was wearing Clemson’s orange – and yet we were in the heart of the University of South Carolina…Big rivalries.
Now it is true, there are a handful of fans and alumni from Clemson located in Columbia. But the reality is Columbia bleeds Garnet & Black – the school colors of USC. 31,000 students flowing in and out of the city. And so the hostess comment struck a chord with me. Even though she was being funny, I didn’t want to stand out. I wanted to connect as a local in Columbia.
Some of you might be saying – really? You really think like that?
My answer is yes. I will do whatever it takes to become a local. Now I don’t know if the Apostle actually intentionally changed his clothes because he was in Ephesus compared to Galatia. Or I don’t know if he thought he should wear different sandals because he was Thessalonica or Colossae. I am willing to say that he probably didn’t.
But we do have one simple frame of reference when he wrote to the Corinthians that the Apostle Paul intentionally attempted to connect on a personal level with others. He wanted to win people to the Lord so he made sure he spoke their language. He talked their talk.
He didn’t change his message, but he probably altered how he communicated the message he said. 1 Corinthians 9:19b-22a says, “…I have made myself a slave to all, in order to win more people. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews…to the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak.”
So funny enough, we ended up going to a local Bi Lo – a 24 hour grocery store – to look for a USC shirt. Enough with the orange. I was looking for Garnet & Black.
And what do you know…I found the shirt.
Better yet, I found the individuals the Lord wanted us to talk to. In the parking lot of the store, we ended up talking to a father and his fourteen year-old son. Crazy enough, the conversation started because of the new USC shirt I had just put on, and the Clemson shirt I had taken off.
One thing led to another…and the kingdom of God was advanced.
Paul wrote, “I have become all things to all people, so that I may be all means save some” (I Cor 9:22b).
To God be the glory. – Kyle Lance Martin