Lesson 12

Urban Ministry in the End Time

(Acts 3, 17 & 18; 1 Corinthians 1)
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Introduction: The Bible recounts how Peter and Paul worked in the cities to share the gospel. The amazing thing is that each man used a different approach to capture the attention of his audience. How should we approach sharing the gospel in the cities in the end time? How should we approach sharing the gospel where we live? Does it require a high level of skill and cunning on our part? Or, is God in charge of our approach and all we need to do is cooperate? Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. Paul in the City


    1. Read Acts 17:16-17. We have often seen that the center for evangelism in the New Testament is the local synagogue (the local church). What new approach do we see here? (Paul went to the marketplace. Commentators explain that this was not just a place to sell goods, but it was also a place to discuss new ideas. )


      1. Is this an advertised event? (Paul simply spoke to those "who happened to be there.")


      2. Notice that Paul goes to a place where people assemble to hear new ideas. What is the modern equivalent of that?


    2. Read Acts 17:18-19. What results from Paul going to the marketplace to discuss the gospel? (He gets invited to the Areopagus - which is a famous and high level public court having authority to decide, among other things, religious questions. Paul does not seem to be accused of a crime, rather he is presenting new ideas.)


      1. What does this teach us about evangelism in urban areas? (If we take steps to present the gospel, God will open the right doors.)


    3. Read Acts 17:20-23. What strategy is Paul using to share the gospel? (He starts with what they already know and believe. He gets their attention by saying he will reveal the mystery of the "Unknown God.")


    4. Read Acts 17:24-28. How would you describe the next step of Paul's argument? (He turns next to nature. He says that God created everything, therefore He does not need us to create houses for Him.)


      1. Why does Paul quote their poets as opposed to the Bible?


    5. Read Acts 17:29-31. What does Paul say about idols? (He calls it "ignorance" that humans can design and build a god.)


      1. Why does Paul say this is an important concept to get right? (A day of judgment is coming!)


    6. Read Acts 17:32-34. Did this approach work? (A "few" believed. But note that Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, believed. This man must have been one of the judges, and thus Paul leaves a convert in a very important forum.)


      1. The report is that not a lot of people were converted by Paul. What lesson should we draw from this?


    7. Read Acts 18:1-4. We find Paul next preaching in the local "church." Notice that Paul is working during the week and preaching on the Sabbath. Is Paul wasting valuable time by working, instead of preaching, during the week?


    8. Read Acts 18:5-6. Paul stops his work and turns full-time to preaching. What made the difference? (Helpers arrived.)


      1. What lesson can we find in this? (I doubt Paul was wasting time when he was making tents. Instead, the lesson is that the Holy Spirit will lead us on how we should best spend our time when it comes to a mix of preaching and working.)


    9. Read Acts 18:6 and re-read Acts 17:33-18:1. What example does Paul set for us in evangelism? (He shares the message and if people believe, that is great. If they do not believe, he moves on and does not pester them.)


    10. Read Acts 18:7-8. Paul moves on, but it turns out to be only a few feet! Why move so little? (The problem was with the Jews, not the Gentiles. Paul is not moving far as a matter of geography, but he is moving with regard to his audience.)


      1. What lesson can we find in this? (We need to be alert to the groups who are receptive to the gospel.)


    11. Read Acts 18:9-11. Who is directing Paul's evangelistic work? (God!)


  2. Peter in the City


    1. Read Acts 3:1-5. When beggars ask for money from you, do you engage in conversation with them? Do you look them straight in the eye?


      1. Why does Peter tell the man to "look at us?" (He wants to engage his attention.)


    2. Read Acts 3:6-10 and skim Acts 3:11-26. God is clearly with Peter and John in this miracle. Peter uses the miracle as the springboard for explaining the gospel. In many ways this parallels what Paul was doing in the Areopagus and in Corinth. Which approach do you favor? (I favor the approach where miracles get the attention of the people.)


      1. Which approach seems more effective? (Paul did not do very well in terms of numbers at the Areopagus, but Acts 18:8 tells us that in Corinth "many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.")


      2. Why does Peter get to use miracles to grab the attention of the audience, while Paul has to use his imagination and the idols in Athens to get attention? (Since God is working with both, this shows us that God uses different approaches to share the gospel.)


      3. Since I've never seen anything like the healing of the beggar in any evangelistic effort I've attended, should we pay closer attention to the details of Paul's efforts? Or, should we pray that God will let us work miracles in His name to advance the gospel?


  3. The Focus


    1. Paul discusses the focus of his ministry, so let's see what he recommends. Read 1 Corinthians 1:17. Wait a minute! I thought Paul's presentation at the Areopagus was an example of human wisdom. How do you explain this? (If you re-read Paul's presentation ( Acts 17:22-31), you will see that he refers to the power of God and Jesus being raised from the dead.)


    2. Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-20. Does this explain why Paul converted so few people at the Areopagus?


    3. Read 1 Corinthians 1:21-25. Wait a minute, have we just stumbled on the reason why Peter used miracles and Paul used philosophical argument? Paul writes the "Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom." Is this the answer? (Paul argues that Jews look for miracles and Greeks look for wise argument, but the true power of the gospel is Christ crucified.)


      1. Does this suggest that God will use the methods that the people desire to focus attention on the heart of the gospel - Christ crucified? (That seems to be exactly what we have seen in this study.)


      2. If that is right, what do the people want to see in our cities? What do the people want to see who live in your area? What will focus their attention so that they will be open to listening to "Christ crucified?"


    4. Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. How complicated is it to figure out how we should approach the world? (This study helps us to consider how God uses His people to share the gospel, but in the end it is God using us to do His will. We do not have to be special in our own abilities, we can all share the gospel.)


      1. I recall staying at a hotel because I had been invited to visit a city to preach the next day. The hotel clerk who checked me out of the hotel kept talking with me about the gospel. I'm sure she did that with everyone. It made me think that she might be doing more evangelism in her humble work than I was with my preaching!


    5. Friend, will you determine today to be willing to be used by God to bring others the message of "Christ crucified?"


  4. Next week: How Shall We Wait?




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