This post is part three of a series on Paul’s missionary strategy. Make sure that you go back and see parts 1-2.
When Paul was on his mission, he didn’t pop in for brief appearances only to pop out the next day at dawn. He spent time with people, living with them in the cities he targeted for mission. On occasion, he stayed for months or years in the same place. On mission, he accepted their hospitality, ate their bread, slept in their homes, and shared the gospel. He lived life and journeyed with his people. He knew the gospel was too important to just drop in for a short visit. This part of Paul’s mission strategy is challenging to apply in our day when travel is easy. We are often discouraged, ready to shake the dust off our feet and move to greener pastures. Of course, short-term mission opportunities are not without value. When it comes to beginning new churches, however, the only strategy that works is spending time in a particular place with a particular people. It means preaching the gospel and living the gospel in full view of everyone.
When it was time for Paul to move on to the next city, he appointed leaders to guide the fledgling community until he or an apprentice could return. He looked for people whose giftedness by the Spirit was obvious. His letters demonstrate how he would match duties with gifts. But Paul insisted that every gift was for the common good, not for individual enjoyment or power. He believed every member of Christ’s body had a gift, and every gift was important. The need for leaders has never been greater than it is today. We must work diligently to match duties with gifts. Discerning gifts is not as tricky as some have made it. We don’t need a spiritual gift inventory to figure out what gifts we or someone else has. Rather, it is a matter of knowing members of the congregation well and recognizing when the grace of God is present in their service. We need to be in tune to the working of the Spirit of God to see His gifts at work in the midst of our churches.
Prayed for His Churches
In Acts and in all his letters, we read that Paul constantly prayed for the individual churches. This may seem obvious, but it is amazing how much work and how little prayer go into our missions. For Paul prayer was not just a nice thing to do when time allowed; it was a strategic part of his work. A study of Paul’s prayers for his churches is revealing. How a person prays and what a person prays reveals much about his or her understanding of the mission. As Paul prayed for his churches, he grew in love, compassion, respect, and grace toward those he called his spiritual children, his brothers and sisters.