During the last 4 weeks Judy and I were in Greece. We have visited the places where Paul first planted churches in Europe – Philippi, Thessaloniki and Corinth. (Acts 16:6-18:18) When in Athens I took my early morning walks around the Acropolis, most mornings pausing to reflect and pray on Mars Hill – where the apostle Paul met the ‘people’s assembly’ (the Areopagus) and spoke of the risen Christ. (Acts 17:6-34) There are many things that stand out in the stories of Paul’s church planting in these places –
1. He planted quickly. Maybe a month in the pagan Philippi, and he had planted two churches. Three weekends in Thessaloniki, and a church was planted.
2. He worked within relational streams. In Philippi he planted a church in the household (oikos) of Lydia and then in the jailer’s home; in Corinth, in the homes of Aquila and Priscilla, Titius Justus, and Crispus the synagogue ruler.
3. He planted multiple churches in close proximity. Two in Philippi – and perhaps 5 or 6 in Corinth and its port city, Cenchrea.
4. He planted on ‘the paths of life’ – in homes. All churches mentioned in the New Testament met in homes. The architecture of the time suggests churches of 20-25 people, maybe up to 45 in some wealthy Corinthian homes.
5. He connected with people in market-places (he was a tent-maker) and synagogues (if there was one). He shared the good news of Jesus with tradespeople, religious leaders, philosophers and civic leaders.
6. He knew the value of relating to ‘migrant people’ – who could take the gospel into their relational streams. Lydia was an Asian (from Thyatira) in Europe; Aquila and Priscilla had moved from Rome to Corinth in Greece.
7. He knew what his message was! Jesus was ‘the anointed One’ – the Christ. He had come to suffer and die – and he had risen, breaking the power of sin and the grave. Paul’s message was simple and direct.
Reflect on what Paul was doing – and how he did it. We often make things very complicated. He worked with a simple model – patterned on the life and instructions of Jesus. It was easily reproducible.