Thursday, September 2, 2010

Paul's missions strategy

This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
Acts 19:10

The book of Acts contains not only the history of the expansion of Christianity from Jerusalem to the entire world of the Mediterranean but also strategies for reaching people groups with the gospel. You see what Paul was able to do, and it was quite amazing. There are principles for modern Christians to understand as well.

First, even though the text talks about Paul's endeavors, he was actually traveling with a team. Silas left with him from Antioch on this second journey. Timothy and Erastus were part of the team in Ephesus (Acts 19:22). We have already seen the role that Priscilla and Aquila have played in Corinth (Acts 18:18). It is implied that Luke joined the team when they set out for Macedonia early in the mission (Acts 16:10). Paul has quite an entourage of ministry servants with him. He is not attempting the task alone.

The second part of his strategy has to do with the way he targeted the task of local church development. He focused on strategic urban cores. He knew that region by region, key cities were centers of commerce and culture. Even those from country towns and villages would eventually travel to these centers for trade, or to visit relatives, or to participate in religious or cultural practices. It made sense to target these cities and spread the gospel from them. From these core areas, Paul sent out workers into surrounding regions once a work was established (see Acts 19:22 again).

The third component has to do with the way he began reaching a city. He started looking for any who had heard the gospel in the Jewish synagogues. And he generally did all he could to preach the gospel to the Jews first. This pattern is clearly shown in Acts 19 in how he reached Ephesus. He found some disciples who needed clearer instruction (it seems they were affiliated with the synagogue). He began teaching in the synagogue. In Ephesus that stage lasted for three months until opposition forced him to take the Christians with him to a private lecture hall where he moved his strategy to include Gentiles. For three years he preached in this setting and the text makes it clear that residents from all over the province of Asia heard the gospel throughout this ministry. It was only after this that he sent out workers to the surrounding areas.

I glean from this clear pattern that the gospel is relevant in urban cores and will reach the needs of the city. It will also extend out to the rural areas. There is no need to limit the gospel impact to one particular people group, culture, or way of life. It would seem to me that this strategy is still quite sound today, since people live in metropolitan communities and spill over into the countryside. The important thing to remember is to have a reason (love and obedience for the Lord) to have a plan (reach unreached people) with the most important message of all: the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is ultimately not about a plan. It is about a Person, and the purpose He has for us.

- Posted with my iPad. The Apple Kool-Aide tastes fine.

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