Really cutting edge missiology
Someone should write a modern Christian missions book based on Acts 13. Maybe there should be a church planting network too. I will go ahead and give you the gist of what I’m thinking. It will be a hoot and a total screed; maybe even a good solvent.
There’ve been gaggles of popular books written in the last 20 years about missions that basically advocate going to Brooklyn, opening a hipster coffee shop and quietly biding your time. Maybe after a decade or two you will have earned sufficient trust from a couple people to whisper about your faith journey with them. But in the meantime, enjoy being in the City! A place in which it is very special and pious to be.
Missionaries, what I am about to tell you is nothing short of radical, a call that will totally remake the way you think about your vocation. You see, we all swim in a very safe and comfortable sort of American Christianity where Christians go to the big city as diplomats for the Kingdom (and get to enjoy that cultured diplomatic lifestyle along that way). But the very powerful missionary strategies contained in Acts 13 will call you to adopt an iron age mindset. Now, I can already hear the naysayers: “Josh, stop – it’s not appropriate to contextualize in this way; you’re just cherry picking the New Testament for missional strategies that you happen to like.” Well, such methodological scruples didn’t hinder Center Church and needn’t hinder us.
Aim for the top. Missionaries, when you arrive at a town (by the way, you’ll be doing this a lot, because you’ll also be shaking the dust off your sandals – but more on that later), it’s always good to get in front of the top guy. Paul and Barnabas got in front of the proconsul of Paphos in no time at all. What have you been doing recently, to get in front of Gavin Newsom or Eric Adams with the unadulterated spiciness of the gospel? Sometimes it is tempting to stay in your comfort zone, keep your head down, and focus on the marginalized, but you need to aim higher. You need to be going to toastmasters and practicing your oratory for when you get the chance to waltz right into the halls of power to tell them who is Lord. Do you even want to win a new Constantine for the Kingdom, bro?
Pick your battlefield. Brothers, the gospel will not advance by your moping in the corner of a coffee shop nursing a macchiato with the latest Marylyn Robinson or Thomas Pynchon book sitting (unread) on the table. That’s not the forum of Athens, not even close. Roll those shoulders back, hold your head high, and pick a strategic point of engagement. Don’t be bashful about the timing or circumstances. Paul and Barnabas took a risk walking into the main synagogue, and hid their power levels until they started preaching. Maybe you can find a way to get onto the floor of the NYSE with a bullhorn, or a chance to speak during the intermission of the opera?
Stand your ground. Friends, when you face opposition from sorcerers, scientists, groomers, etc., don’t hold back! You need to respond winsomely, but directly. Something like this is a good model: “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you.” My cessationist readers, don’t just let your eyes glaze over when you read the stuff about Paul and Barnabas striking Simon Barjesus blind. Maybe you aren’t authorized to strike people blind, but what are you doing to convey the power and urgency of the evangelion?
Expand your playbook. Beloved, don’t let social niceties confine the tactics you use. Consider, for example, what it would look like for you to take advantage of interethnic competition, like Paul and Barnabas did when they expressly shifted their gospel presentation from the Jews to the Gentiles in Pisidian Antioch. This made the Jews very angry and jealous, but the Gentiles very happy. Well, are there groups in your city with whom you can set up a little virtuous competition? Pit the artists against the Wall Street bros? (“Those excel junkies could not compute, and so now we come to your artist collective.”) If you read the rest of Acts with a mind that is open and free from constraints, you will doubtless find many other similar strategies and “tips-and-tricks” that you can incorporate.
Know when to call it quits. You need to be shaking the dust off your sandals. There’s no virtue tarrying in a barren field when the harvest is withering on the vine elsewhere. No, ten more years of your “preaching the gospel without words in the coffee shop” strategy won’t be a difference maker. Look for signs that things are stalled out or are turning against you. If the AWFLs of the city start arraying against you, like they did against Paul and Barnabas, it is probably time to go.
Anyway, the book would go something like that. Fear not, it would use the cutting-edge missiology and exegesis that we’ve often seen displayed by leading lights like David Platt, Ed Stetzer, Matt Chandler, Kevin Ezell, just re-contextualized a little bit. Publishers – if you are reading – you know where to find me.
*Image Credit: Wikipedia