Acts and Mission Strategy

Following Ekhard Scnabel (Paul the Missionary), there are three elements which are a part of this missionary work. First, the missionary communicates the good news of Jesus as the Messiah and Savior. Second, the missionary communicates a new way of life to those who respond to the good news. This necessarily means that social and cultural patterns must change in the light of the Gospel. Third, the missionary tries to integrate these new believers into a new community. The new believers are a new family (brothers and sisters) or a new community (a citizenship in heaven).

Paul, flashing his Missionary Card

Paul, flashing his Missionary Card

By in large, I agree with this general outline of method. It is not difficult to demonstrate that Paul’s message centered on Jesus as the Messiah and that his death provided some kid of solution to the problem of sin. What is more, Paul is clear in his letters that when one is “in Christ” everything has changed. The believer is a new creation and therefore has a new relationship with God. The believer has a new family, which means there are new family obligations which bear on social connections. The new believer’s relationship with God has social and ethical ramifications which go beyond the typical confines of “religion” in the ancient world.

These elements of mission also explain many of the problems Paul faces in fulfilling his calling. How does a person “live out” this new relationship with Christ? How do Gentiles relate to the God of the Hebrew Bible? If Gentiles are in Christ, how ought the relate to the pagan world? Two examples come to mind. On the one hand, should the Gentile believer in Christ accept the Jewish law as normative for their worship and practice?

On the other hand, can someone who is “in Christ” attend a birthday celebration at a pagan temple without actually worshiping any god? In the first case, the Gentile is radically changing his pattern of life which would create a social break with his culture. In the second case, he is making a minor adjustment in order to remain socially accepted. These are not straw-men, since there are clear cases of both things happening in the New Testament. I assume Paul would be someplace between these two extremes, based on a reading of Galatians and 1 Corinthians.

I point this out because it highlights the difficulty of applying Acts as a one-size-fits-all mission strategy. I think that Schnabel’s first point clearly describes the activity of the Jewish church in Jerusalem, but does the second? To what extent does Peter have to instruct Jewish believers in proper practice? The third point may have applied although quite different in practice from the later Pauline congregations.

What is remarkable to me is that this last problem is a non-factor for the first nine chapters of Acts. Peter and the twelve do not face the problem of what to do with Gentiles since they do not target them at all. Even after Peter is sent to Cornelius, there is no really problem since the God-fearing Gentiles are nearly Jews by way of practice!

4 thoughts on “Acts and Mission Strategy

  1. Our culture and actions should represent that we are Christ followers and that we are devoted to His truth. Being a Christian means putting yourself in a situation where we can expand our community and bring light into more darkness. When a person becomes known of who Christ is and is revealed His glory – their actions and behaviors change as a whole. Christians need to figure out how to be bringing God glory and honoring Him in their new lifestyle of devotion and fellowship. “Those who have responded to Peter’s proclamation of the Messiah are characterized as: repentant and having turned to the Lord selling their possessions in order to provide food for one another, experiencing the presence of the divine through signs and wonders marked by unity, peace and fellowship” (Jipp 49).

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  2. I believe that as Christians, we must stay true to the Bible and what God is commanding us to do. Sometimes in order to share the gospel, we need to adapt to our circumstances and the people around us, but this does not mean we are changing our beliefs and does not mean we need to disobey God’s commandments in order to do so. Being a Christian is not easy, despite what some people might think. John 16:33 says “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” When we accept Jesus as our Savior and the Holy Spirit enters into our soul, we can’t help but change and we can’t help but WANT to change. When we choose to follow Christ, our priorities, actions, and lifestyles change. This is made clear in Acts 2 when after hearing Peter’s sermon, the crowd becomes a community of believers and they sell their possessions and they become unified. They can’t help but sacrifice things for one another for the glory of God. As Christians, we have to remember that we once were not Christians. We once lived some period of time without being saved. When we come to acknowledge this, we can better adapt to nonbelievers around us without giving up our beliefs, but with this in our minds, we can better relate to those around us which will come handy when sharing the gospel.

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  3. When applying these mission strategies written about from Ekhard Scnabel to the Jewish church in Jerusalem there is some overlap. Scnabel discusses the first step as communicating the good news. This applies to both Gentiles and Jews, so there is no overlap. This should be the main goal of any believer. The second goal or element is communicating a new way of life, to those who choose to accept. This is the follow-up to sharing the good news. When you make this decision for your life, you cannot keep living it the way you were before. You have a new purpose. In Acts 2, we see that those new believers made the decision, then did something about the change. They would sell their possessions and belongings, they gave it to those in need. They even went further, they changed their life daily, they had fellowship with one another, praising God. In Reading Acts, it discusses this, that John demanded possessions to be used for repentance, it is seen in Acts 2 (Jipp, 48). They had a 180-degree change in their life, it was no longer about themselves. Thirdly we get to integrating those who made the decision into the community. When Jesus died on the cross for all, he opened a way for new change in how to do things. There was still different ways of doing life, these things did not align. The example of attending a birthday celebration is interesting to me, but I think of Romans 14:13, “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother”. We all come from different doctrines and ways of doing life, but we should be careful and considerate of others around me. Through all of it, we need to remember the goal of being a believer, and that is to serve the Lord and tell of the good news. After that live your whole life for him and be a community.

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