Does "All Things to All People" mean "Conforming to the World"?
How close is your ministry to Lady Gaga's?

I was recently interviewed by Skye Jethani on the subject of authenticity for Leadership Journal. During our conversation, Skye made a comment that continues to linger in my mind. He contrasted one pastor wearing "torn jeans and an untucked shirt and a goatee" with another "in clerical robes burning incense"—and how both can be viewed as authentic by different onlookers. I'm troubled by how the entire matter is framed by outward appearances. Yesterday's Worship Wars have morphed into Wardrobe Wars.

There has to be a better way to think about how well pastors guard the gospel that has been entrusted to them. There has to be an alternative set of criteria to evaluate the evangelical faithfulness of pastors. . .

About the same time that I was interviewed I came across an interview of someone else talking about doing ministry today. Can you guess who said the quote below about their labors? And as you guess, try to picture the clothes worn during the interview:

"I am just . . . riding and searching down the highway with the Apostles . . . But it's modern-day Jerusalem, so everything . . . feels like. . . today. I want to create the feeling that if they were here now – which when you worship with us, you want them to be here—I really want the Apostles to be real. I want it all to be real. It's so powerful and inspirational and we're revolutionaries and we're bad-ass and we're preaching love. And it's not about Christianity. And it's not about Religion. It's just about Identity. It's about saying, 'We can change the world.'"

The answer may surprise you. Before disclosing, let me admit that I swapped out the phrase "watch the video" and replaced it with "worship with us." (That's really not too much of a stretch given the rise of video-screens and remote feeds for showing sermons in some churches today).


The quote was transcribed from an interview on Fuse TV with Lady Gaga ("Top Ten Lady Gaga/Lady Gaga Take Over) promoting her recent release of Judas. The YouTube video for the song has since had over 175 million hits. You read that right: 175 million hits (advisory warning: many will find the video blasphemous and offensive"

No less disturbing than the video associated with this quote are Gaga's ridiculous lyrics, which I only share to vividly point out the very real objects of worship in our society today.

As I watched and listened to this Gaga interview, I wondered: How many pastors today take cultural cues from Lady Gaga more than they heed the pastoral pleas of Paul?

I'll let you be the judge.

Jim Gilmore is author of The Experience Economy: Updated Edition.

November 12, 2013

Displaying 1–6 of 6 comments


November 19, 2013  8:35am

As repugnant as that video is and as confused as Lady Gaga is in her spirituality (not unlike Madonna, I note), the theme of those lyrics seems to be essentially what St. Paul said in Romans 7 (minus the "thanks be to God it has been done through Jesus Christ"). That is, it seems to be about failing to overcome temptation and not finding one's way to repentance (all the while recognizing on some level "Jesus is my virtue"). Of course, I believe (like many Protestants) that St. Paul was talking about evangelism, not offering rubrics for Christian worship, in the passage about being "all things to all men." We should not imagine that he was doing anything other, even as a Christian, in the context of the corporate gathered worship than he had always done as a pious Jew using the prayers, liturgical calendar and Scripture readings, and hymnody of his Jewish heritage, except that the Sacrifice Christians now offered was that of Christ Himself, in the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist He instituted, and which they celebrated every Sunday as the fulfillment of Jewish Temple sacrifice. I personally experience the guy in the goatee and untucked shirt as well as the fully-vested priest routinely on alternating Sundays, since my husband is Evangelical and I am Orthodox and we are agreed to do Sunday mornings together (with rare exceptions). I love the folks at my husband's church, and I love the heart of its leadership–God is doing some fantastic things there in terms of the "one anothers" that Tim is always reminding us of. But I must admit it is the latter, the ancient liturgy of my Orthodox church, that best facilitates my awareness of God's presence and of the full meaning of Christ's Incarnation (life, death and resurrection, etc.), without which I find it impossible to live even a remotely genuinely Christian life.

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November 14, 2013  1:34pm

Paul I was referring to the Apostle Paul. He is the one I quoted.

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November 13, 2013  9:39am

"No less disturbing than the video associated with this quote are Gaga's ridiculous lyrics, which I only share to vividly point out the very real objects of worship in our society today." Our society is based on one, solidly piece of Americana...Materialism. It's in our history, it comes from our past to our present, and it is the undergirding for America's whole raison d'etere. And so, if you want to know what sin every American, whether poor or rich, base or high-born it is the continuing pursuit of "things." So, if there is one thing that is undermining the American Church it is our rampant Materialism. And it really doesn't matter which denomination, which church, which county, parish, or locality you go too...things are our god. You see these "things" on the side of the road, floating in the water, flying above our heads, passing us by while we wile the day away, things, things, things, and our whole purpose in life is to acquire more things. In some ways...George Carlin, as foul a man there ever is or was still remains an unwitting prophet calling us out on our hypocrisy. Lady Gaga, unlike the lot of us in the Church, is at least honest about her motivation and her goals...perhaps in that regard we should listen to what she has to say.

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Paul Pastor

November 12, 2013  4:41pm

Just for the record, this is Jim's piece. I just posted it, Tim. :) Paul

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November 12, 2013  4:16pm

Does "All Things to All People" mean "Conforming to the World"? Yes for the Hire-Your-Leaders approach to church. No, from Paul's point of view. This phrase is part of Paul's explanation of the strategic benefits of leaders ministering free of charge to those they minister to. 19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 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. 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. 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. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. The first word in this paragraph (For) ties back to the previous paragraph and statement where he says "What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel." Yes, the right is clear and justified 6+ different ways, (1st part of 1 Cor. 9.) but it should be refused for the strategic relational connection that flows from that, and many other reasons here and in Acts 20 and 2 Thes. 3, etc. Expecting pay from those you serve means they will be consuming 75 - 85% of their giving to benefit themselves. That is the normal budget percentage from LJ's article. When you export this form of leadership to the Philippines where I grew up, they consume 99% because they are not a wealthy nation like us. This dynamic produces huge shutdowns for the gospel reaching all tribes and ethnic groups. This is a worldly practice. Specially when you add in the practice of special titles and top-down ruling which Jesus said is what the Gentiles do. There is an amazing simple and authentic solution to all of this pooling-our-collections-for-us and calling it giving. It involves the faith to leave Ur. Am I hijacking this post or did I answer the question and address the text for exactly what it says?

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Tom F.

November 12, 2013  4:07pm

As I understand it, Gaga has some background in faith, specifically evangelical faith. I don't think she identifies it as such anymore, but is it possible that it went the other way? That she took the parts of evangelical message that she liked and left the rest? Just some food for thought- it could also be a sign that people are hearing what is being said (good) and then putting their own spin on it (inevitable, if bad).

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