Acts 17:22, 23: A landing stage for the gospel.
“22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: ‘People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship – and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.”
Canon Michael Green wrote that in evangelism you have to row your gospel ‘boat’ around the ‘island’ of a person’s life and decide where is the best place to ‘put in.’ I love that comment, and I believe Paul gives an outstanding illustration of the principle in today’s short reading. ‘Start where they are.’ Take them from the known to the unknown. Establish a point of contact. From the outset of his talk to the Areopagus, Paul knew exactly where he wanted to go, but he began with where they were.
Do I detect a bit of wry humour in the comment: ‘’Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious’’ ? Perhaps he had a twinkle in his eye when he said it. Whatever, it shows respect for people to take a genuine interest in their worlds, their lives. It can also take effort to enter into another person’s thought world, and learn about what they believe, and not caricature it. It may feel threatening to get close to someone whose beliefs and behaviours are vastly different to your own. It will be challenging and time-consuming to read books and periodicals by people who are atheists or agnostics or morally liberal etc. However we must do what it takes to understand the times we live in, and relate meaningfully to this generation.
John Stott famously said that the preacher stands between two worlds – the world of the Bible and the world of the listener – and our responsibility as communicators of the faith is to bring those two worlds together.
PRAYER: Lord, I am never less than daunted by the challenge of contemporary evangelism. You made maximum effort to reach us. You sacrificed more than any man ever could to step into our world. So help me please to stay ‘anchored to the Rock’ yet ‘geared to the times.’