Monday, April 16, 2007

Tuesday morning evangelistic smack-down, #27

A leadership seminar by Paul:

Luke summarizes Paul’s teaching in Acts 20:18-35, which can be read out loud in 2 minutes and 10 seconds. In other words, we have here less than one-half of 1 percent of Paul’s teaching content, even assuming it was a short one-day seminar. So from one perspective, we could say we have ended up with but a brief summary of the high points that seemed important to Luke. Or, from another perspective, we could say we trust that the Holy Spirit, who inspired Luke as he was writing Acts, guided Luke supernaturally to select the exact items that would be the most important for the leaders of the church through the ages. Let’s move on this latter assumption.

As I read it, it looks as though the seminar could have been divided into four sessions, all of which are important for Christian leaders in all places at all times:

· Session 1: Striving for a servant’s heart (Acts 20:17-21)

· Session 2: Counting the cost of discipleship (Acts 20:22-24)

· Session 3: Guarding against counterfeits (Acts 20:25-31)

· Session 4: Turning the church over to the nationals (Acts 20:32-35) (Peter Wagner, Blazing the Way, 197-200)

Urban Evangelism

Rodney Stark (Christianity Today, 6/15/98; Christian History, 5/30/01) talks about how the early Christian community “outlived the pagans.” Part of this was the urban sanctuary the Christians offered.

Greco-Roman cities were terribly overpopulated. Antioch in Syria, for example, had a population density of about 117 inhabitants per acre—more than three times that of New York City today. Tenement cubicles were smoky, dark, often damp, and always dirty. On the street, mud, open sewers, and manure lay everywhere. Newcomers and strangers, divided into many ethnic groups, harbored antagonism that often erupted into riots. For these ills, Christianity offered a unifying subculture, bridging divisions and providing a strong sense of common identity.

  • To cities filled with the homeless and impoverished, Christianity offered charity and hope.
  • To cities filled with newcomers and strangers, Christianity offered an immediate fellowship.
  • To cities filled with orphans and widows, Christianity provided a new and expanded sense of family.

Why was Paul a “tentmaker” when he didn’t have to?

  • Credibility: Paul says twice (1 Cor. 9:12; 2 Cor. 6:3ff) that he works in order not to put an “obstacle: in the way of the gospel. He tries to give the Gentiles no reason to distrust his motivation. He does not want to be classes with exploiters of audiences. He gets nothing, it costs him.

  • Identification: Paul is known for adapting to cultures…including the lower classes. A skilled artisan was somewhere in the lower middle (I Cor. 9:19ff). He would have had to immerse himself in the marketplace to gain the trust of the artisans and laborers. His identification would not be phony…he genuinely earned his living. This would be, of course, an imitation of the incarnational Jesus (Phil. 2:5-11).

  • Modeling: Paul, generally, would model the holy life of one living in an unholy world. “He lived a holy life in the same immoral, idolatrous, cesspool society where he expected converts to live holy lives.” He would do the same, more particularly, with a Christian work ethic.

    “With toil and labor, we worked night and day that we night not burden any of you, and to give you an example to follow.” (I Thess. 3:8) Work would not be optional for new believers. He would turn thieves, idlers and drunkards into good providers for families and generous givers to the need (I Cor. 6:10-11; Eph. 4:28; I Tim 5:8). More importantly, Paul established a pattern for lay ministry…all converts were to be full-time, unpaid evangelists in their places of work, extended households and cities, villages. Perspectives, Ruth Siemens

A witness, not a lawyer

”As a lawyer for God, putting up his case, I was a failure. As a witness for God, telling what he had done for me, I was a success. As in a flash I saw my calling: I was to be a witness! It was bitter medicine, bitterly and publicly administered, but I took the medicine and found it cured me of illusions. I would not be God’s able lawyer, but I would be a witness to grace. And I have been a witness - a witness before princes and peasants, before Brahmans and outcastes, before the mighty and the miserable of what Christ has done for an unworthy recipient. I have found that this is what people want to hear – testimony of what has happened and is happening to you.” (
E. Stanley Jones, Song of Ascents)

Bible help

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