Sunday, 23 August 2015

Six Principles of Mission (Acts 16)

In Luke’s description of the founding of the church in Philippi we can see several important principles for guiding the Christian church today as it engages in local mission.

The first is that the workers were partners together in the task of spreading the gospel. Paul did not function by himself, instead he surrounded himself with people. There are many reasons for this: prayer, training of Timothy, authenticity from the Jerusalem church (Silas was delivering the decree of the Jerusalem council concerning the ceremonial law), local knowledge of Luke (it can be argued that Luke came from Philippi; he seems to have remained there once the others left the city, v. 40).

The second is patient waiting on God for his direction. It is obvious that the Lord did not reveal details of his will until the appropriate time had come. He did not allow them to go to certain geographical areas (we don’t know how the knowledge was given, but it is evident that they were looking for guidance) and then he gave specific guidance to go to Macedonia.

A third principle of Paul’s mission strategy was to go to a population centre, which is why he went to Philippi, a chief city of Macedonia. Once they established a church in a population centre, it could evangelise the surrounding area and Paul and his team would move on to the next place.

Paul had a fourth principle, which was to communicate first with those who had some knowledge of the true God. In the ancient world, this was the Jews and the Gentiles who had identified with the worship of the God of the Israelites. Paul did not target the leaders or influential people of the city first, although sometimes they would be reached later. His approach in this method was common sense. When the local synagogue finally ejected him, usually by that time he had gathered a nucleus of a congregation.

A fifth principle that marked Paul and his team was their assumption that God had his people in that place who were about to be converted. They did not know who these converts would be, but they did expect the gospel to have fruit. Paul therefore was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, either in its content or in its effects, because he knew it was the power of God unto salvation.

A sixth principle that governed their approach to evangelism was to convert households. In those days a household often would number more than parents and children; it could include sons and their wives, grandchildren, as well as servants and slaves. Connecting a household to a congregation might result in twenty or more people adhering to the church. Two households are mentioned in connection to the church in Philippi: the household of Lydia and the household of the jailor.

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