I am an unashamed fan of Paul!
I am amazed at his church planting activities and inspired by his courage and passion. He is one my great heroes and I read Acts regularly. This week I was asking again ‘how did he do it?’
You see when we first came to Brighton I came saying we will probably be here 3-5 years and then we’ll go do the same thing somewhere else and then do it again etc. That was the original plan. Recently someone asked me how long I think we will be here now and I said 5-10 years is much more in the line of sight – and that’s if we ever leave…
And then I started thinking…
If we stay too long surely we run the risk of setting up a ‘control’ system that Roland Allen would say is the death of a church’s multiplying ability?… What ought we do?…
What was the longest Paul stayed anywhere? I think it was Ephesus where he spent two years. He was a hit and run kinda bloke. Steve has described him as a ‘catalytic’ church planter.
I don’t see many of them around these days. I’m not sure that I am one of them either.
As I read Acts this week I have been reflecting on some factors that might affect the different pace at which we do things:
Gifting – Paul was a rare beast. No question about it. Strong leadership gift, incredible intellect, high teaching ability. He was suited to itinerant stuff. I can’t think of anyone like him in my own city.
Historical Setting – I wonder what impact it had being so close to the whole Christ event? I wonder if there was a buzz in the air and if it was hot news and therefore a bit easier to speak to, or at least the topic was up for grabs?
Cultural Setting – Paul speaks of himself as the apostle to the gentiles yet almost everywhere he goes he first of all heads off to the synagogue. He goes there and makes public presentations of his teaching to those who are up for listening. I reckon this is an advantage – being able to have a public forum to fire up debate. In Athens where he didn’t have a synagogue he used the Areopagus. Paul definitely used his communciation skills to evoke some debate about the gospel. Paul didn’t seem all that committed to slow relational engagement. He was more of a spruik it out there and then deal with the conversation that it produces kind of bloke. I identify with this kind of apologetic evangelism, but I wonder do we have these forums anywhere? In middle class family land I don’t think they exist. Most people are too busy to get into something like this, or just plain disinterested.
Paul did seem to see converts everywhere he went. He was very clear about calling people to follow Christ and to accept the reality of his death and resurrection for them.
He had some fairly significant biffo in a few places because of his open and forthright approach, even to the point of getting beaten and run out of town.
Are we too soft in our approach to evangelism?
Are we too concerned to be ‘effective missionaries’ and not concerned enough to actually speak the truth of the gospel to those we live amongst?
One thing is for sure. I don’t think we could ever say we have established a church in a place if there are no new Christians. Until there are a good pile of them I’d say we will be staying put no matter what.
Paul was a rare beast with a high teaching ability yet he also said, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”
Maybe the historical setting helped but there was a stack of resistance as well, especially from the Jews.
Hamo, you said “Paul didn’t seem all that committed to slow relational engagement.” I think this is a point worthy of our ongoing analysis and discussion.
“Are we too soft in our approach to evangelism?”
I think maybe we are.
“Are we too concerned to be ‘effective missionaries’ and not concerned enough to actually speak the truth of the gospel to those we live amongst?”
I think this is an excellent question and is something I am grappling with in my journey through Luke and Acts.
“Most people are too busy to get into something like this, or just plain disinterested.”
So how did Paul get people’s attention? It was definitely through his bold preaching of the “Gospel” but what about this:
“So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.” Acts 14:3
Or what about this interaction in Acts 17:”Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities.”
staying put no matter what? Isn’t there a place to brush the dust from your shoes and take off?
One of the things that I think is missing is people look at evangelism like a method, or a program. But evangelism is basically living your life like the kingdom of God is really here, with power, and justice, and a giving up of worldly ambitions. Then the words you speak are powerful. Signs and wonders are not just spiritual gifts of the supernatural, but radical life transformation. When someone gives up their own stability and comfort for the kingdom, that is a sign of faith. When the quaker families that had lost children went and consoled, and comforted the gun mans family, and offered forgiveness, that is a sign and wonder. When people sell themselves into slavery to go preach the truth to others, or when a beautiful couple spend their whole lives in a remote village ministering and being part of an aboriginal community, that is miraculous.
I think like Chesterton said, the problem is we have inoculated too many people with small doses of Christianity which keep them from catching the real thing.
Rev, I agree wholeheartedly!