Most of us think we know our community/town/city. Most of us think we have a pretty good grasp of the culture in which we live. Yet, when we’re asked to describe our own neighbors – those people who live closest to us, many of us struggle to give even a short list of their interests and personalities. A few months ago, my Sunday morning schedule was altered in such a way that I was able to run a quick errand in a large store on my way home from an early church service; I was surprised by how many people were not in church (and did not appear to have been dressed as one might expect to see at most churches) and had adopted Sunday morning as a shopping day. This might come as a surprise to many of our regularly-attending church-goers.
If you were a missionary sent to your community, you would get to know the mission field you’d been sent to. So, since – as a believer – you ARE a missionary and you HAVE been sent to the community you live, shouldn’t you get to know it?
Where would you go to learn more about your town/neighborhood/community/city? You might check the statistics given on your city’s website, the kind of cultural events and clubs that are present, Wikipedia, etc. All of these help paint a picture of the places God has sent us.
You might even engage in a conversation with your neighbors… or the people in your community… or the people who live closest to your church building. You might ask them about their family history… the things they like/dislike most about their community… what they spend their time and money on… what they value most… etc.
Take a look at what Paul did in Acts 17. As you read, notice the things about the Athenian culture Paul knew. Paul understood he had been sent as a missionary to the people of Athens. So, he did some homework. He discovered there were both Jews and Gentiles living there… and he knew where he could find crowds of them at any given time (v.17). He knew there were philosophers there… and that Athenians liked to learn and discuss new things (v.18-21). He knew there was a statue in the Aeropagus dedicated to an “unknown god” (v.22,23), and he used that fact as a point of connection to share the gospel (v.23-31). In the midst of sharing the gospel, he showed he knew some of the local culture by quoting Athenian poets (v.28). Historians think Paul only spent one winter in Athens. Yet, look at all Paul learned about the people he’d been sent to?
How long have you been on your mission field? Did Paul know Athens better than you know your own community/town/city?
Let’s follow the example of Paul, the greatest missionary in history, and get to know the facts and everyday routines of our own mission fields!