FOLLOWING THE FOOTSTEPS
I had the opportunity while in Greece to visit Mars Hill. It is in the area of the Acropolis. Unlike the Parthenon and other famous structures, it is literally a big rocky area. I was struck by the idea that in almost 2000 years it has not changed much. Where I was standing was much like it was when Paul spoke.
The apostle Paul visited Athens by himself when Silas and Timothy stayed behind in Berea. He toured around the city and saw many idols. Paul was invited to speak at Mars Hill, the place where philosophers gathered to discuss ideas.
At the time two philosophical schools were dominate. The Epicureans followed Epicurus, who taught that happiness and pleasure were the main goals of life. They believed the gods were remote and uninvolved. The Stoics followed Zeno, who taught people should learn self-control and be free of emotion. They were pantheistic seeing everything as an expression of their gods.
They called Paul a “babbler.” The word in the Greek is spermologos. Logos means word and spermo means seed. The idea was that Paul picked up seeds of knowledge but had no developed system of thought. It was a major insult especially to an intellectual like Paul. He had been taught in a great university and then studied under a famous rabbi. He knew Stoic philosophy and was well read in literature.
Athens was the center of culture, religion and philosophy. Paul found a way to connect with them by mentioning their altar to an “Unknown God.” He is a model for how to reach an unsaved, unchurched, pre-christian culture. It was a culture like ours today that did not acknowledge God’s authority.
Our starting point for a conversation might be something in the news, a movie or television. We need to meet people where they are and follow in Paul’s footsteps by connecting it to the gospel. In his message Paul also used quotes from popular literature. He quoted from Minos letter to his father Zeus and from the poet Epimenides (Acts 17:27-28).
This gained a hearing for Paul to share the gospel. He started by talking about God as the creator and source of life. Paul made clear that God is not like anything humans made up and cannot be worshipped as an idol. He then presented Jesus and the resurrection.
Acts 17:34 says, “Some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.” When we make the gospel relatable to people, when we talk in practical and relevant ways about following Jesus - people will respond!
About Rick McDaniel
Rick McDaniel is a noted author, international communicator and church leader. He is the founder/senior pastor of Richmond Community Church in Richmond, Virginia. The church is known for its contemporary and innovative services and has a worldwide reach through www.highimpactchurch.tv. McDaniel has earned three degrees including an advanced degree from Duke University and is the author of six books including his latest "Turn Your Setbacks Into Comebacks." He has traveled and spoken at conferences and churches worldwide spanning six continents.
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