We are skeptical of that which is foreign to us, and so our ministry is often inhibited by the challenge of presenting the gospel that so frequently seems to stand in sharp contrast to common worldviews. Paul encountered this deterrence as he reasoned with the people in Athens: “You are bringing some strange things to our ears,” they tell him, “so we want to know what these things mean” (Acts 17:20, NASB).
This episode in Paul’s life reminds us of what we sometimes forget: Our story is not only the greatest of stories; it is also universal. When the people of Athens thought he was preaching something strange, Paul brought his message back to their sphere of familiarity, telling the story from where they were. We do not serve a god who demands our ascent to His level by our own ability, but rather a God who “is not far from each one of us” (v. 27), so that if we seek Him, we will find Him.
In the context of our ministry, this reveals both a strategy for presentation and a reason for boldness.
Paul demonstrated the strategy: He observed the city, recognized the points at which the Lord intersected their reality, and revealed to them that which they worshiped in ignorance.
Their reality conceived of a god, but they had no concept of One who did not exist in structures of their own design.
Their reality told them that some higher power had created and ordered the world they knew, but it could not convince them that such a being might desire their hearts more than their service.
Their reality assumed humanity had a source, but they could not imagine intimacy with a Creator.
Paul recognized these gaps in their reality and introduced the one true God and His exclusive gospel as their fulfillment. He simply told the story and extended the invitation to relationship in light of what he observed. Because he trusted that God would make Himself real to his audience, Paul spoke with boldness—even in the face of a city’s rejection.
We ought to keep Paul’s strategy in mind in sharing the gospel. As we observe the lives of those God has called us to reach, He will provoke our spirits to recognize those points at which He can begin. We can then speak with boldness, trusting that He will move where His story is told.
And in doing so, we might again turn the world upside down.
By: Jordan DeCosta, a junior at Life Pacific College in San Dimas, Calif.
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