This weekend in my devotional time, I spent time pondering how Paul planted a church in a foreign city, particularly Corinth, from Acts 18.
I found several parallels to my current church planting work.
1. He connected with the local people
When he came to the town, “he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla,” (18:2).
Paul went to see them, and “because he was a tent maker as they were, he stayed and worked with them” (v.3)
Here is an example of relationship building. They had something in common – tent making, and that formed the basis of their relationship. They were local, even though they were transplants from another city.
At this point in the story, we do not know if Aquila and/or Priscilla are believers. We know that eventually they are, because of their role in discipling Apollos when they all meet him for the first time in Ephesus.
I recalled reading about the Luke 10 principles from The Rabbit and the Elephant (see review of The Rabbit and the Elephant). There, the authors remind us of how Jesus sent out the people ahead of him, to find the “person of peace” and to stay with that person. We see this pattern in Paul’s work here in Athens. Aquila and Priscilla were those persons of peace.”
2. He worked among them
While staying at the house of Aquila and Priscilla, Paul used that as a base for his outreach every Sabbath. Verse 4 reads “Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.”
During the rest of the week, Paul was likely making his tents and setting up his business. Costs were likely low as his lodging was covered, and he wasn’t supporting a family.
3. He devoted himself full time
Verse 5 reads: “When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching.” This suggests some possible growth in Paul’s business – either
- Paul had made enough funds from selling tents that he was free, or
- Silas and Timothy took over business operations, or
- Business had grown to the point where a manager was in charge, or
- Aquila and Priscilla were running the business to support Paul (All three go to Ephesus).
Once they arrived, Paul was able to devote himself full time to the ministry of teaching. As was his pattern, first to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles. Verse 6 shows his opposition from the Jews, so he setup his teaching base next door.
Paul was busy doing good work. Building relationships, conversing with people, and doing the basics of evangelistic work. Yet even he was afraid of those who mocked, ridiculed, and opposed him.
The Lord gave Paul a vision one night: “Do not be afraid.” At first, I thought this was the common greeting of angelic visitors, but as I peered into first Corinthians, I read “I came to you in weakness and with much trembling” (1 Cor 2:3).
Then there is guidance: “For I am with you, . . . .because I have many people in this city.”
Elijah had a similar fear – when he thought he was the only one – the Lord reminded him that there were others.
When one faces that kind of fear in personal evangelism, it can be emotionally draining. When one thinks of all the other fears that hinder personal evangelism, we have this reminder that Paul faced similar fears.
How did the Lord comfort him?
“keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you”
In other words, God reminded Paul of his presence, and the presence of others in that city who could help him.
If you are a church planter, perhaps one prayer could be “Lord, where are the other people in this city who are called to help us?”
The question that stirs in my mind – what are my fears?
This missionary work wasn’t setup and funded overnight.
In this case, Paul lives among his initial contacts in Corinth and then sets up and runs his business. He grows it to the point where he can hand it off, likely using the proceeds to fund his own church planting or missionary activity.
In receiving comfort from God about his fear in the face of rejection, he likely begins to pray, “Lord, where are the other people.” We see that new relationships develop in the next 18 months while Paul remains:
- Titius Justus, a worshipper of God.
- Crispus, the synagogue ruler and his household.
- Sostehenes, the next synagogue ruler (v.17), who helped write 1 Corinthians (1:1)
- Cloe’s household (1 Cor 1:11)
We can see how the Lord answered Paul’s prayer.
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