You’ve probably heard the story of Paul addressing the philosophers on Mars Hill in Act 17. It’s at the heart of the emerging church and missional movement. I’ve heard the arguments from those who oppose the emerging church that it is just another way to tell the institution to stick it where the sun don’t shine by the “new hippies.” I’ve heard the emerging leaders speak of a way to deconstruct the Christianity we know to be like the one Paul intended.
Personally, I think both sides are right, but the unfortunate thing is that we have created sides. The reality of all this is that Jesus, Peter, Paul, and the other Apostles would be disappointed if they were here to see the condition and structure of the Church.
When I read Act 17 it excites me to see while Paul waited on Silas and Timothy he didn’t waste any time engaging the culture of Athens. Yes, he was an incredibly educated man, so he knew the spiritual landscape of Athens. Still he didn’t wait for someone to create a committee and determine if there was funding to support a new mission in Athens, as today’s churches would do. Instead, Paul “reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there” (v.17 – ESV).
The beauty of Paul’s life is that he “lived” where he was. By “lived” he not only moved into the community of the people, which was the case for much of his journey. I also mean he was alive in his calling and set the example of how the Church should live among the sea of lost souls. Many of you have heard or read my rants on denominations building bigger edifices to compete with the next church congregation. Some say the motive is not competition, but rather a way to be a beacon for the surrounding community. Do we need buildings to gather? Yes. There is no doubt we do, but why spend so much money on that when people can help each other like they did in Acts 2 and 4. My thought is that there are plenty of buildings where the people gather on a daily basis. These are places where we can meet and discuss the issues of life, the philosophies of the day, and the desires of our hearts. They are also the places where our worlds collide, cross and mesh with the worlds of others.
In Acts 17:22 we see where Paul entered the Areopagus (Mars Hill) to address the philosophers speaking and pondering the thoughts of the day. During that time the Romans had destroyed many of the cities of Greece. The people of Athens had wounded spirits and the philosophers carried the torch of reason for the entire country. They asked the deep questions and ponder the deepest thoughts of tragedy, hope, faith, and religion. It is for this reason that Paul says, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.” Paul proceeded to explain Jesus and the resurrection, which caused some to sneer and others to be drawn to the truth.
We, too, can engage our culture with the same passion and purpose. We know the people around us. It is no surprise to us what and who they worship. Some worship themselves, while others worship men, and even those us who worship God find ourselves struggling with our own philosophies. Still we should not wait for a committee to form and determine if a certain segment of our communities needs a church or a mission event. No, we should go into the synagogues and marketplaces to connect with the people and engage them with the faith, hope and love that is within us. We don’t need to wait until Sunday to get our spirits juiced. Jesus is with us always and if we truly are his followers, his Spirit dwells within us to guide our steps.
Find your synagougue, marketplace and Areopagus. Embrace each one, connect with the people and engage their souls. We’ve already been told what to do in Matthew 28. The Apostles and the Early Church have given us an example of how to be the Church. It’s time we actually do it and quit waiting for someone else to “act” on God’s calling. It’s time to do what most Christian Americans expect the Government to do…feed the hungry, care for the widows and the orphans. Many of them you will find within the walls of your church gathering. Seek them out and serve them.
Blessed are those…