“Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. (Acts 17:16-18)
While in Athens, Paul’s spirit was burdened by the idol worship and diverse religious beliefs he witnessed throughout the city. In the verses above, we can see the different kinds of people that Paul encountered. Those caught up in the ancient Greek religions of mythology regularly worshipped idols of their gods. There were Jews who worshipped in the synagogues, along with Epicurian and Stoic philosophers sharing their thoughts in the public square. These two groups were followers of early philosophers and believed that if there were, in fact, gods, they are remote and uninterested in the affairs of men. The phrases, “and some said,” and “others said,” indicate there were additional religious beliefs held by the people of Athens. The same thing is at work today. Wherever we go, there are people who believe something altogether different than what we do. People are becoming increasingly “spiritual and religious,” but are unaware of the One True God and His Son. The remainder of Acts 17 describes how Paul reached the people of his day with the gospel, but did so in a context and manner they would understand. This is our challenge today in evangelism: presenting the unchanging message of the gospel in a way that the Honduran sugar cane farmer and the CEO of a Fortune 500 company can understand and embrace. Reach them where they are.
How might you change your gospel presentation to fit the lives of the farmer and CEO mentioned above?
What are your thoughts on the planting of churches to reach specific groups of people?