So the last 2 posts that I have written have focused on Planting Missionary Churches and specifically looking at the text in Acts 17:16-34 where Paul goes to Athens and shares the good news of Jesus on Mars Hill. The first post related to a back story that happened 500 years before Paul came to Athens which opened up the text in a new way for me. The second post was about Paul's missionary strategy in Athens. Today I will share about missionary strategy that we can apply from Acts 17 into our context here in the US. And I'll share a little bit about the way that I am seeking to live this missionary strategy out in Lancaster, PA while planting Veritas, a missional/missionary church plant. 1. The first thing that we had noticed in the Acts 17 text is that Paul when coming to Athens went to the Synagogue and reasoned with the Jews and God-fearing Greeks. He started with a place of openness, or with low hanging fruit. As a missionary in the west probably the first place we could start with is people who are dechurched and not the unchurched. People who are also going through significant life change, be it new college students, new parents, someone who just experienced loss of some type or with people who are struggling. I think of those who have been recently affected with flooding in our area and how a missionary and a missionary community can come alongside these families and help them clean, dispose of, rebuild, and just be a blessing.
2. The second thing we noticed is that Paul also went into the marketplace as well as the synagogue and then was invited to go and share the good news at the Areopagus. We need to spend more time outside the "church" building relationships, networking, and serving others. I was at a meeting this morning about 1st Friday in downtown Lancaster and a lot was said negatively about those who proselytize (handing out tracts, yelling, using a bullhorn). Or I think about people who go onto college campuses with their agenda and not just to be a blessing to students and the community. I went to the meeting to see how we as Veritas can be a blessing to the community and not force our way in, but be invited into the conversations that are happening on a city level. This is also one of the reasons that I spend much of my time in coffeehouses doing my work is to be out and among people and seek to develop relationships with people.
3. The third thing in the text that I noticed is that before Paul said anything, he observed the culture by walking around. So often Christians just go into a situation and open their mouths before listening with their eyes and ears. One thing that I want to try to do more often is to prayer walk both in the city and also around the F&M Campus where several of our Veritas community are students. JR Briggs has a series of great posts about prayer walking called "Creative ways to pray with your feet" which can be found on his blog (http://www.jrbriggs.com/)
4. Lastly Paul uses the poets of the culture in which he is sharing and not the OT. When he was in the synagogue, he used the OT to share but when he was on Mars Hill he used 2 Poets from the Athenian Culture and ones that were authoritative in the lives of his listeners. Who are our poets? Who are the people that people in our culture give authority to? I believe, especially in the younger generations, it is the musicians and filmmakers who are making and sharing theology and we need to listen to and walk and keep up on what is happening in pop culture. This is why when we gather we try to have some pop culture as part of our worship gathering, be it a movie clip, pop music playing when people are hanging out, or actually having a pop song played by our musicians during our gathering time.
These are some of the missionary strategies that I've gotten from Paul's missionary strategy in Athens and on Mars Hill. Maybe you found some other strategies in this text that I missed. Would love to hear your insights on this text, Paul's missionary strategy, and how these guide how we go about being missionaries in our culture.