I write this open letter to church planters because of the importance of the work you do, because I have a heart for pioneers and risk takers, and because I pastor a church that believes in church planting and lives it.
But, the truth is this letter is for pastors, leaders, and believers of all stripes.
This is a dark world and times are (to use the nicest term I can think of) precarious.
These truly are days when people have started to call good things evil and evil things good. Doing the work to which you are called often feels fruitless at best and dangerous at worst.
But you, we, are not alone. The Apostle Paul was a man who obviously knew how to suffer for the sake of the Gospel and kept his joy, even singing in prison. This rock star pastor saw the miracles of God drip from his fingers and proclaimed that any suffering here is light and momentary compared to the eternal glory that awaits.
If I could be completely honest, his strength, determination, endurance and spiritual prowess are so amazing that sometimes… I really dislike him.
That’s why I was drawn to Acts 18.
- Paul moves from the cosmopolitan, spiritual epicenter of Athens to the dirty, outskirts travel hub of Corinth. Comparatively, this place was a hole.
- The city was hard and full of sexual dysfunction and immorality.
- He was broke and had to revert to a day job to support himself.
- And, the people he was trying to reach with the love of Jesus “opposed and reviled him” (Acts 18:6).
The rejection was so public and defeating that Paul “shook out his garments and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads!’” (Acts 18:6)
It was an obvious low point for Paul, and maybe this says more about my brokenness than his circumstance, but this is where I started to like him again.
He apparently doesn’t wear a cape; this guy bleeds too. Now we can share a cup of coffee and lick our ministry wounds.
But, at just this point in the story, we see one of the rare ‘red letter’ passages in the book of Acts.
18:9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”
I don’t believe we doubt the continual presence of Christ with us, even in the dark times.
I bet most of us don’t struggle with speaking up, even when the world tells us to shut up.
And, most of us have just settled in with the knowledge that attacks will come, and personal loss is a part of the game.
But, did you catch that last part?
“For I have many in this city who are my people.”
I wonder if Paul woke from his vision and said, “Really… where are they?”
Paul couldn’t see them because God was talking about His “already not yet” church. They were unknown, unreached, unconverted, undisciplined, but they were there! When Paul was ready to shake the dust from his feet and move to some place where things were more fruitful, God showed up and allowed him to see through the eyes of God.
God was doing more than Paul knew, expected or could even begin to understand.
This same chapter says that Paul’s response was to plant, dig in and commit. He stayed there for 18 months, even in the face of failure. He adjusted his ministry to focus clearly on his calling.
That’s when God did what only God could do:
- A new location, right next door to the synagogue (the house of Titius Justus)
- A celebrity convert who caught the city’s attention (Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue)
- New friends and instant leaders that would be with him for the next 16 years (Aquila & Priscilla)
I don’t know where you are right now leader, but don’t give up.
God is doing more than you know, expect or can even begin to understand. There are many in your city who are already His, beginning with you.
Seeking more of Him and less of me,
Pastor Andy Addis