Observations from the Ancient Mission Field

During our recent trip to the Holy Land, God allowed my wife and I to personally experience, not just the lands where our Lord walked, but also the lands of pioneer missions in Greece, the Aegean Sea and the coast of Turkey. As a missionary kid and former missionary, I cannot describe how thrilling it was to see the places where the Apostle Paul took the Gospel message to foreign nations and cultures. We toured the open ruins of ancient Ephesus and Corinth, as well as Mars’ Hill in Athens.

My imagination came alive as I saw each open marketplace (agora), imagining Paul interacting with the vendors, tourists and athletes. My heart was burdened as I walked by the columns and doorways of massive temples dedicated to ancient Greek gods, that he too would have walked by. My stomach turned as we viewed the debris and artifacts from brothels and houses of temple prostitution. Paul stood as a pioneer missionary, sharing the message of forgiveness and hope through the resurrected Jesus, calling people to turn from their sin and live godly lives in the midst of a spiritually dark and perverse generation.

As we seek to take the Gospel to our local communities, and to unreached people groups around the world, it is often discouraging to see the rampant idolatry, paganism and blatant immorality. We are so few seeking to reach so many. Yet, the pioneer foreign missionary of the New Testament faced overwhelming challenges as well.

In Ephesus, Paul faced rejection and opposition, but still met regularly with a few believers, and discipled and trained them for two years. With God’s blessing, “all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10). This led to a city-wide revival that virtually collapsed the idolmaking industry of the region. In Corinth, Paul teamed up with fellow tentmakers selling tents to those traveling to the local athletic games of the peninsula. He built relationships, using their sports and religious culture to point their understanding to the truths of God. For 18 months, he taught God’s Word, which also produced negative social reaction because of the spiritual fruit. This rough, godless culture would challenge that local church for many years, but God was faithful to bring them through.

I don’t know the cultural and ministerial challenges you are facing, but you are not alone. God’s servants have walked this road before us. The same God who was faithful to them will be faithful to us. May we take to heart the words of this experienced missionary: “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9).

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