Winning the lost – one smoothie at a time
James Glass looks at a couple from the book of Acts who might have set a precedent for us.
A few months ago I was invited to attend a meeting held by an international organisation. It was a lunchtime event. Lunch has a great ability to create leverage with pastors! Pastors and leaders from churches and organisations right across the church spectrum attended.
As I was awaiting the promised lunch, I chatted to the pastor sitting next to me. He was from a church stream I don’t have a lot of contact with. His church culture is very different from Elim – we would probably say that it is very traditional – but he told me about an event that he ran in a university. He gave away smoothies whilst inviting people to come to church. Something like 100 people turned up the next Sunday.
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I was glad he told me that before lunch arrived or I just might have choked on my lamb shank!
I was still thinking about our conversation the next day, and it led me to reflect on several other conversations I have had in the last year or so with or about leaders who are very effective but don’t fit the more general perception of what an effective leader looks like. Some of those leaders are effective church planters, skilled people builders and competent administrators.
However, they’re probably not coming to a conference near you. They don’t podcast.
They’re not trying to build a platform on social media. They’re not trying to build a platform at all.
Priscilla and Aquila
Perhaps the closest model we find in the Bible to this kind of leader is found in Priscilla and Aquila.
Priscilla and Aquila are mentioned in Acts and Paul’s letters. Through piecing the various bits of biographical information together it is possible to construct a 16-year timeline and to discover something of the character and shape of their ministry.
Tested and proven
It’s always dangerous to try to work out what people were feeling or thinking at a particular time in history, especially when there is no record of what was going on in their minds. However, I think it’s fair to say that being exiled from the city where you once lived (Acts 18:2) must be a fairly traumatic experience.
This experience must have tested their faith, but it certainly didn’t cause them to lose faith in God, nor dent their commitment to church and mission.
The Church is crying out for leaders who have a tested and proven faith.
We don’t know what Priscilla and Aquila’s lifestyle in Rome was like before they were expelled, but we do know that post expulsion they didn’t allow themselves to become too settled in any one place. From Rome, they went to Corinth (Acts 18:1-17). From Corinth to Ephesus (Acts 18:18). From Ephesus back to Rome (Romans 16:3). And from Rome back to Ephesus (2 Corinthians 4:19).
Priscilla and Aquila were very flexible in their living arrangements. Initially, because they had to be. Latterly, because of how the Spirit led them. By grace they had turned the greatest upheaval in their lives – at least the greatest upheaval we know of – into a new Holy Spirit-propelled adventure.
Considering the challenges they faced, you could be forgiven for thinking they must have been on a good salary! They didn’t have a salary! They funded themselves.
They made tents. That’s how they came to know Paul (Acts 18.3).
Priscilla and Aquila weren’t afraid of trouble or difficulty. After the kind of experience they had in Rome, many would-be seeking a quiet life. That was certainly not the case for Priscilla and Aquila! Every church that they served in had major challenges and difficulties.
The church at Rome had the challenge of ministry in the capital city of an often hostile empire. Corinth’s difficulties are well documented in Paul’s letters. Ephesus had many difficult doctrinal and practical challenges which are recorded in Paul’s letters to Timothy. There was communal strife in both Corinth (Acts 18:5-17) and Ephesus (Acts 19:23-41) in the early days. Riots occurred in both cities as opposition to the gospel gathered pace.
And Paul says that they risked their lives for him (Romans 16:4).
Priscilla and Aquila stood their ground throughout all these challenges. They could have walked away, but they didn’t.
You can’t help but feel that given their experience in a time of crisis in Rome, they had some practical wisdom that helped the church navigate the turbulence. Nor were they intimidated by big personalities or reputations. They came alongside one of the most eloquent preachers of the day and helped him into a clearer understanding of the gospel (Acts 18:24-26).
Seeing a painted picture of Priscilla and Aquila might give the impression that they would make good hosts for The Apprentice or Dragon’s Den. Nothing could be further from the truth. For all their courage and tenacity, this couple exudes incredible warmth.
They had long term friendships. They must have had a deep love for Paul – who clearly loved them.
And you don’t keep going back to churches if you don’t have friends there! Writing to Corinth, Paul says, “Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house,” (1 Corinthians 16:19).
There might be some who are drawn to this kind of ‘Priscilla and Aquila’ opportunity but have dismissed it as an escapist fantasy. You might have reached a crossroads in life and don’t know what’s next, but you have skills and experience.
You have worked through some trials and come out the other side with an enlarged commitment to God, church and mission. You even have the means of financing yourself. Why not talk to your pastor? Or Elim International Missions? Or the REACH department? This might just be your ‘Priscilla and Aquila’ moment.
James Glass is the leader of Glasgow Elim Church.
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