I currently find myself again reading through Acts, inspired once again by the stories of the Church, facing persecution, carrying the good news to unreached groups throughout the region.
One of my favorite stories from the book of Acts takes place in Athens, in chapter 17. I just read it again this morning from The Voice New Testament. The commentary contained in The Voice states,
"This exchange is the most potent example of cross-cultural evangelism in the Bible. Notice how Paul provokes his audience to think and invites them to pursue God, but he does not attempt to summarize the gospel in simple propositions or acronyms. He connects their culture with the truth of the gospel and the beauty of the person who is Jesus. After that, it's the job of the Holy Spirit."I love Paul's entire message for many reasons, but especially because of how he connects the gospel with their culture. Ecclesiastes mentions how God has placed "eternity in their hearts." During my time at SNU, I read one of my textbooks by this name, written by Don Richardson, in which he explores the idea that God has placed eternity in the hearts of men, revealing himself to different cultures in different ways. When we, as missionaries, seek to understand the ways God is already revealing Godself to humanity within the culture in which we are serving, our cross-cultural evangelism takes on a whole new--and much more effective--form.
This is exactly what Paul does in Athens in Acts 17: he takes a look around and sees this statue "To an Unknown God,"he quotes Greek philosophers that the people are familiar with, and he puts their own beliefs into the context of the gospel.
We can never change the message of Jesus Christ, but we can place it into a context where it can connect with the people we are serving, revealing Eternity in their hearts.
"It would be illogical to assume that a God of this magnitude could possibly be contained in any man-made structure, no matter how majestic. Nor would it be logical to think that this God would need human beings to provide Him with food and shelter..." --Paul in Acts 17:24-25.
Our God cannot be contained in any of our man-made structures or constructs of who we think God should be. In reality, God doesn't even need us to accomplish His purposes in the world; He chooses to use us to glorify Him.
What a glorious mystery all this is.