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.