Did Jesus give the Apostle Paul a strategy for reaching the nations?
Yes, he did and it is a strategy for our day as well.
Steve Addison often quips that we need to stop asking 'What would Jesus do?' and start asking another question:
What did Jesus do?
Luke 10:1-23 offers us a window into one of the things Jesus did and it is a window into both his methods of discipling his followers as well as a strategy he uses to reach into new areas with the gospel.
It is a strategy that the Apostle Paul employs throughout his ministry and is especially visible on his second missionary journey as recorded in Acts chapters 16 - 18. This is of course not the only strategy that Jesus gives his followers nor is it the only strategy for reaching into new harvest fields that the Apostle Paul uses, but within Luke 10 are a number of examples and principles that we, like Paul, would do well to pay attention to and at the very least, try out. They are not the way we in the west usually go about things but they are the way that Jesus taught his first followers to take the gospel into new regions. Let's look at a few of the examples and principles from Luke 10.
Pray for Harvesters
In Luke 10:2 Jesus tells the 72 to pray for more workers. This is interesting because as sent ones, they are the workers. The implication seems to be that there are workers in the harvest! As Paul worked through Macedonia and Greece, the leaders of all of the churches that emerge in Acts 16 - 18 are new believers who came out of the harvest. Paul did not lead these churches. There is no mention of him even planting churches. Paul made disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) and churches emerged as new disciples were raised up and began to share the gospel and make disciples.
Find the Person of Peace
Jesus instructs the 72 to find a peaceful person, someone who welcomes them into their home. He gives them further instruction that, if a peaceful person cannot be found, they should brush the dust off of their feet and move on. It seems that there will be a God prepared person who welcomes them, or their won't be. The presence of that person or lack their of is out of their hands. It is a work of the Father who draws people to Jesus. Paul trusts Jesus' strategy.
For Paul it looks like this: Enter a new town or context. Find the place where people gather - usually a synagogue. Preach the Gospel. Get kicked out. Discover that there are a handful of people who want to follow Jesus.
When Paul proclaims the gospel there are always three responses as clearly articulated in Athens in Acts 17:32-33.
When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” At that, Paul left the Council. Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed.
Paul knew that there would be three response:
Stay with the Person of Peace
As part of Jesus' instructions, he also tells the 72 to not move around from house to house but rather to stay with the person of peace. Jesus does not tell us why we should stay, but in the example of Paul we see the fruit of staying in place.
Paul is not the local who will establish the movement in each town. The local person - the cultural insider - will be the one to stay. Lydia, the Philippian Jailer, Jason in Thessalonica, the elders in Berea, Dionysius and Damaris in Athens, Aquilla and Priscilla in Corinth as well as Crispus the synagogue ruler and his entire household! These are the people who become the leaders of the gospel movements in each of their respective regions. Paul has stayed with them, he's shared meals with them and invested in raising them up to be disciples of Jesus! This is perhaps most clearly seen in Thessolonica where Paul spent just three Sabbaths [learn more].
Everywhere Paul goes he finds a person of peace, a God prepared person whom God is going to use to establish the local expression of faith. Paul has no plan to leave a “church planter” behind to lead the new church for a time. It seems that from the very beginning the plan is to have a new believer lead the church.
These are just three of the principles from Luke 10 that Paul applies as he works to obey Jesus and make disciples. A deeper study of the sending out of the 12 in Luke 9, Matthew 10 and Mark 6 would be be helpful to further compare how Paul took the example of Jesus and applied it to his efforts to take the gospel to the very ends of the earth.
If Jesus' example and the principles of Luke 10 were good enough for Paul, it seems we ought to at least look at these passages and explore what applying them to our current context might look like.
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