Continuing the No Place Left series, Acts 17 today and looking at the first 10 verses. Paul and Silas preaching in Thessalonica.
Starting with Chapter 14, continued last week in Chapter 16, in Acts 17 we have a lot to learn regarding strategies and principles for church planting and disciple making. On this missionary trip Paul did not preach in Asia Minor. Passed through Derbe and Lystra, where he met and recruited Timothy. No preaching in Phrygia or Galatia. Prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching in Bithynia and Mysia. Holy Spirit made Paul turn west and head for Traos. No preaching here too. We know they spent at least a night here, because “during the night” Paul saw a vision of a man calling for help in Macedonia. The next day they headed for Neapolis. From there they travelled to Philippi. Here they preached = last week’s message of Chapter 16. Does God want everyone saved = YES. Does God want every city and place reached with the gospel = YES. Does He want every city and person reached at the same time = NO. Does He want some cities and people come to faith ahead of others = YES. Does this mean He favors certain people = NO. Will everyone respond the same way to the gospel we preach = NO. Today I would like us to learn some church planting and disciple-making strategies and principles from Paul and Silas’ experiences in preaching the gospel in Thesallonica and Berea.
If we are looking for disciple-making and church planting strategies from Paul and the team, here is yet another example of Paul bypassing certain towns to go to other towns that were chosen for a spiritual and/or strategic reason The Bible does not explain why the Holy Spirit would not allow them to enter and preach in certain towns during each trip. However, looking at the results that the gospel preached in the towns they did ended up reaching to the neighboring towns, we can understand how strategic the preaching they did was. Need to ask the Holy Spirit for prophetic assistance. There is nothing wrong with going to the “next” person or household. That is the way of simple obedience to the command. In Acts 1 Jesus commissions His disciples to preach to Jerusalem(our place), Judea (our region), Samaria (the place next to us that isn’t us) and the ends of the earth (everyone else). PRINCIPLE: preach to a certain place or certain people for strategic reasons.
Synagogues were obviously entry points for preaching the gospel for Paul. They were built for this and used them to proclaim the gospel. He went in to teach the scriptures on Sabbath days. This meant he was speaking to people whose hearts were supposedly ready to listen. This was also being culturally wise as Jews considered the synagogues and Sabbaths “holy”. What are the entry points in our circumstances? Worth thinking of suitable entry points for effectively preaching the gospel in our spheres. Illustration: since leaving the ANU and joining the APS - Been praying all along about seeing the Kingdom of God come in my current workplace - Felt largely lonely and had only a few opportunities to share the Kingdom of God - I have largely struggled with some fear I think – not wanting to break the APS Code of Conduct! - Since last year I have decided to be intentional about seeking opportunities to connect with people beyond the cover up phase. Learning from Brian, I have been seeking to ask the next question beyond “G’day, how are you mate …” - Have in the past 6 months met with 2 believers at work through quick kitchen conversations, whilst waiting for food to warm up in the microwave! - At the moment having a listening ear to people that hurting as well as some who are afraid/frustrated with the changes we are going through at work is proving to be a good entry point for sharing the love of Christ and hope. - Need wisdom and grace to make sure I don’t end up getting swallowed into the spirit of winging and negative talking down of leaders! - June last year we started a fortnightly catch up as a group of 3 believers, now 6, and sense the presence of the Lord every time we meet to pray and share ideas
Paul spent three consecutive Sabbath days doing a series on the Jesus as the promised Messiah with special reference to the fact that the crucifixion and resurrection were always intended to be a part of the story. The Jewish ‘Biblical narrative’ had no place for a Messiah who suffered, was killed and rose again from the dead. Their story was of the coming of a military/political leader like King David who would win wars against the pagan enemies and allow Israel to rule the world. It was only incomplete because the individual hadn’t shown up yet. Paul and his team talked about Jesus, he had to show them from the texts that they were familiar with, how Jesus fulfilled the REAL prophecies and promises of the Bible and why there was a need for his death and resurrection. The traditional religious Jewish Messiah story was based on a whole wrong premise altogether. t presumed (a) we are God’s special people no matter how much we disobey God, (b) the coming of the Messiah will prove to everyone that we are justified in hating non-Jews and their punishment at the hands of the Messiah will vindicate our views, and (c) rather than being a humble suffering servant, the Messiah will be gain the highest human status and exercise human power to create a human political world that will favour the Jews and displace the non-Jews. What Jesus represented and accomplished through the cross robs the idea of a Messianic kingdom rule of the arrogance, pride, domineering image that often accompanies leadership in this world’s way of thinking. Unfortunately, most of what goes on with certain Christian leaders and Christian groups today have much the same flavour to their story as the Jewish traditional religious leaders had.
The gospel is always a message about a kingdom. It will always be an invitation to some people who are ready and willing to honour the real King and it will be a curse to those who need to protect a kingdom that is different from the kingdom of God. There is no such thing as a presentation of the gospel that is NOT accompanied with a witness of the Spirit to the people who hear and see what God is doing. We will never know exactly all that is going on because it is an invisible, inside job. We only get to see it if those who are brave enough, say or do something. That’s why we should encourage people if anything is happening inside them to share a story that makes Jesus known in some way. In Thessalonica we get the kingdom of God spread: Jews, ordinary Greeks and Greek women of high social status. This is a good start for a kingdom of God church!
In the same synagogue, listening to the same message, we get the people who also realize that this message is about yielding up earthly status, earthly power and earthly values in favour of serving king Jesus. This group responds by doing things they wouldn’t normally do in order to destroy or neutralize something that threatens their own self-built comfort zones and kingdoms. Jealous Jews - went straight to the group of people they had NOTHING in common with; in fact these were the people they would shun contact with: the pagan bad characters from the market place; troublemakers and bad character people. They did this simply to stir up trouble for Paul and the new believers. Together they go to the city officials to complain. Like the Jewish leaders at the time of the crucifixion (cp. John 12:19), they speak prophetically even when they are trying to destroy: “these are the ones who are turning the world upside down” (really ‘right-side up’).
The believers were not on any kind of political crusade (as some people still think it is). When Jason was being threatened, the believers realized that if Paul was gone, their opponents would presume that the issue was dead. That’s what Paul’s Jewish opponents and the city officials would have presumed. Little did they realize that the reproducing power of “NoPlaceLeft” people was firmly established in the new believers. We know from the two letters written to the church in Thessalonica that they didn’t miss a beat by Paul leaving. Paul was still important to them of course, thus the letters, but their capacity to reproduce was Holy Spirit driven, not leader driven. This is a huge lesson for us as we face the legacy of personality leader focus rather than Holy Spirit empowered leader focus. There were leaders in the church there. Paul refers to them in his first letter. The Thessalonian letters were probably the first ones to be written of all Paul’s letters that we have in our New Testament. There were leaders appointed – but they were Paul-supported and Silas and Timothy-supported leaders. And while all of that was happening the gospel was spreading to the whole of Macedonia from its beginnings in this Thessalonica and Berea. Leadership challenge: What if we entered a leadership function with the idea that from the beginning, we were going to do everything we needed so that if we had to pull out, the work of God in that person, or those people would multiply - there is a genuine and wonderful challenge for all of us. May our leadership change so that this becomes a primary focus. (i) Share the gospel so that we produce disciples who are empowered to stand on their own by faith, and be able to share the same gospel to the next disciple, and (ii) lead any ministry in such a way that we are helping at least one believer be able to carry on with the work if we have to leave. Illustration: I worked with two missionary couples to plant a church in Japan – Rumi’s mum’s church. We after two years of preaching the gospel in Ube City for 1.5 years, we believed God and started meeting as a group of 4 people first Sunday of January 2000, and I was the youngest. I was asked to lead the youth group – when we started having some. Within a few months we had two youths join us – a brother and sister, both young in the faith. I teamed up with them over a period of 4 years. Together we outreached both to the locals as well as international students at the local university. We saw about half a dozen people come to the Lord, and many seekers. However, I had to leave for Tokyo. Unfortunately, I had not managed to groom anyone to be a leader to carry on the work, and so sadly it did not continue. Grateful that those that came to the Lord during that time are still continuing in the faith. Learning from this, I have decided that from Day #1 of any ministry I do, I will aim to ensure co-leadership, frequent rotational leadership and as soon as possible do supported-leadership of various believers so that the ministry can continue even if I or anyone is not there. See some fruit in our homegroup as well as the fellowship at work.
Seek Holy Spirit to know the strategic/target place/people preach to What entry points/synagogues are there for your target people, e.g., coffee catch, sport, common thing? Bring Christ into people’s story. Listen to understand where they are in their life journey and try to bring Christ there. The preaching of the gospel receives the Kingdom of God responses as well as opposition. Need to be able and seek the Lord’s grace to stand. Think and practice disciple reproducing from Day #1
1When Paul and his companions had passed through
Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica,
where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2As was his
custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three
Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the
Scriptures, 3explaining and proving that the Messiah
had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am
proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. 4Some of
the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as
did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a
few prominent women. 5 But other Jews were jealous;
so they rounded up some bad characters from the
marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the
city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and
Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd.
Acts 17 (NIV)
6 But when they did not find them, they dragged
Jason and some other believers before the city
officials, shouting: “These men who have caused
trouble all over the world have now come here,
7 and Jason has welcomed them into his house.
They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that
there is another king, one called Jesus.” 8 When
they heard this, the crowd and the city officials
were thrown into turmoil. 9 Then they made
Jason and the others post bond and let them go.
10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul
and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they
went to the Jewish synagogue.
Acts 17 (NIV)
(1)Bypassing some towns to reach a target town.
(vs 1: passed through Amphipolis and
Apollonia and went to Thessalonica)
(2) Same as in Chapter 14 – preached only in
Galatia, and a few towns in Asia Minor.
(3) Paul obviously cared about Amphipolis and
Apollonia better chances of reaching these by
preaching in Thessalonica and Berea first.
PRINCIPLE: preach to a certain place or certain
people for strategic reasons
1. Prophetic and strategic preaching
2. Choose entry points wisely
(1)As was his custom, Paul went into the
(2) on three Sabbath days he ….
3explaining and proving that the Messiah had
to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I
am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said.
4Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined
Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-
fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent
Acts 17 (NIV) (Thessalonica)
3. Bring Christ into people’s stories
(1) Paul explained and
reasoned with the
audience from the texts
that they were familiar
(2) Jesus is the promised
Messiah: suffered, died
and resurrected according
4. Gospel preached – Kingdom response
(1) Gospel is always a message about a kingdom:
Invitation to people ready and willing to
honour the King
Curse to those who need to protect a different
kingdom from that of the real King
(2) At Thessalonica people listened to the gospel
regardless of Jews, gentile, race, age or education
Holy Spirit witness the Truth in their spirits
Some people respond to the gospel and
5. Gospel preached – Opposition arises
(1) Hear the same message in the synagogue:
yielding up earthly status, earthly power and
earthly values in favour of serving king Jesus
(2) Jealous Jews
show demonic inspired responses
Stirred up trouble for Paul and new believers
(3) Jealous Jews … complain to city officials
Speak prophetically when trying to destroy
Like Jewish leaders at crucifixion (John 12:19)
6. Strategic withdrawal but no turning back
(1) Paul and team moved on immediately, secretly
by night and went to Berea.
(2) Reproducing power of “NoPlaceLeft” people
was firmly established in the new believers.
(3) Paul and Silas preach the gospel in Jewish
synagogues in Berea.
7. So what ….??
• Seek Holy Spirit to know the
strategic/target place/people preach to
• What entry points/synagogues are
there for your target people, e.g.,
coffee catch, sport, common thing?
• Bring Christ into people’s story
• Think and practice grooming
leaders/multiply disciple from Day #1