We believe that God has us here as a church in Columbia for the purpose of helping people meet Jesus. We want to grow into that as a community and to do that we are taking a few weeks to look at some of the churches that got started in the book of Acts and we are seeing what we can take from this and apply to us as a whole church and to our LifeGroups. Last week we looked at the church in Antioch. This week we looked at the start of the church in Philippi. Here, we got to see some of Paul’s specific interactions with people—people that would eventually go on to become part of the church in Philippi.
The Church in Philippi: Acts 16:9-34
9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul[a] had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the[b] district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
16 As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
19 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 20 And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. 21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods.23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer[c] called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.
Three Lessons we can take and apply to our church and LifeGroups:
1. There is no “type” of person who becomes a Christian
The good news brings people together. A wealthy businesswoman, a poor slave girl, and a blue-collar ex-soldier become the church in Philippi. This is the power of what Jesus has done for us on the cross. He brings people together in a way that defies race, socioeconomics, background, and aptitudes. The good news of Jesus has the power to change and transform human beings from the inside out and to make people the family of God.
2. God uses different methods to reach different people
There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to evangelism and sharing our faith. God uses different means for different people who are coming from different places and backgrounds.
The book, I Once Was Lost, is helpful in noting some common stages that many people go through on the path to becoming a Christian:
- trusted a Christian
- interested (not shutting down conversation)
- considering (actually open to changing their life)
- placed faith in Jesus
3. Prayer is the most important part of the mission
If you talk to people about Jesus more than you talk to Jesus about people, you are doing it wrong.