Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Biblical Model for Seeker Churches

posted by xscot mcknight

The question is asked: Is there a biblical model for seeker “services”? Indeed, one could say there is. Paul’s address to the Athenians on the Areopagus (Acts 17:16-33). Let us see what we can learn about a “seeker sensitive” and “seeker connecting” approach to preaching the gospel — one that Paul models.
First, Paul finds himself in an idol-filled city of international repute and his approach is to contend with them (argue with them) both in the synagogue and in the marketplace. He found himself in direct disputationm with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. They invited Paul to the Areopagus — the academy of its day.

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

Second, Paul overtly connects with them by speaking (I’m not sure I’d say “affirming” — maybe) of their being “extremely religious” (seekers at some level). He supports their religiosity by their objects of worship.

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.

Third, from this platform of connection, Paul tells them the truth: the God they are searching for in their spirituality is Israel’s God, and he is Lord of all and does not dwell in shrines made by human hands. He does not need such things because his the giver of life to all. Adam is the ancestor of all.

So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.

Fourth, observe this move by Paul: “God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” That is, Paul overtly affirms that God makes humans in such a way that they will seek for him. If Paul can say no one seeks God (Rom 3), he also says God made humans to seek him — and he finds evidence for such in the religiosity of the Athenians.

27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.

Fifth, Paul grounds human seeking for God in the fact that we are all “in God” — this kind of language smacks of pan-en-theism (which means we are all in God), even though we must be careful to distinguish what Paul and his world meant by how some understand it today. That we are made by God and “in him” means Paul can infer that God is not gold and silver and stone.

28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill.

Paul is not done. He’s not done when he’s got his audience thinking they are all connected to God. He summons them, sixth, to repent. In the past God has overlooked paganism, but it is time now — now that Jesus has come — to repent from sin. And he summons them to repentance in light of a final judgment. The reason we know of a final judgment and that life is eternal is because of the resurrection.

30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

Those who did believe, you can bet the last verse in your Bible memory verses packet that they were led into New Community for discipleship and training for missional living.
Lots could be said, but at least we should be careful enough in our Bible reading to observe how it was that Paul preached the gospel (at least on the Areopagus).
What do you think? Is this a model for seeker churches? Are they consistent with it?



Advertisement
Comments read comments(35)
post a comment
Bob

posted September 1, 2006 at 6:24 am


A bold, unabashed proclamation of the Gospel? Yes.
A model for seeker churches? Maybe.
Are seeker churches consistent with it? No.
Paul’s audience consisted of 0% believers. I would expect the average seeker church to…maybe…if it’s healthy…contain 85% believers. I’d expect the actual numbers to be much less.
Paul delivered a confrontational message to a knowledge-seeking audience (rather than God-seeking audience). Can you imagine going into an atheistic group of philosophers and likening their thought to “ignorance”? In today’s seeker church you get a 4 point recipe on how to determine the will of God for your life (a.k.a. a self-help Gospel.)
Paul’s audience was called to nothing less than repentance. Today’s seeker audience is called to connect with a small group or (Ohmigosh, how can we?) volunteer in Children’s church two Sundays a month.
Paul was half run-out, half laughed out of the Areopagus with only a few people responding. Seeker church pastors receive a long line of complimentary “Great sermon today, pastor” folks with relatively few complaining.



report abuse
 

rick

posted September 1, 2006 at 6:31 am


Scot-
Isn’t there a slight difference in “seeker connecting” and a “seeker service”? In this passage the “connecting” seems more missional (17:16-33), although 17:34 may have included more of a seeker service.
People who attend a church service usually have at least a basic understanding of why they are there when they walk in; as opposed to those engaged in a conversation on a college campus or a Starbuck’s.



report abuse
 

John Frye

posted September 1, 2006 at 6:36 am


Bob,
I kindly disgree with your broad brush dark painting of seeker churches. I was in a well-known seeker church at the seeker service and heard a message that for me as a seasoned believer “cut me to the heart” and I found myself repenting of attitudes and ways displeasing to God. The seekers were addressed as responsible adults who needed to repent or perish. No sugar coating, no self-help balony. Firm, undiluted gospel.
Scot,
I think your parallels are insightful.



report abuse
 

Bob

posted September 1, 2006 at 6:45 am


John,
I appreciate your opinion. Can I ask a follow up question? Was the message that “cut you to the heart” Good News of the restoration of cracked Eikons or Bad News of you’re doing something wrong and it is ticking God off so stop?
I think we get confused about what conviction means where the Gospel is preached and I suspect it is because we rarely hear the Gospel of the Kingdom. Christianity is a religion of action in response to acceptance rather than acceptance as a result of action. As Scot points out above, Paul keeps that order in tact.



report abuse
 

Russ

posted September 1, 2006 at 7:00 am


One characteristic of most “seeker” churches is an attractional approach. Their ministry model thrives on a “come to us” mentality. That is not reflected by Paul on Mars Hill. Paul went to where the people were.
Like someone said yesterday, I am pro-church – I like it in all it’s forms, but we have to be alert to the message our methods send. The church is called radically in to Christ so she can be sent radically out! The shepherd goes and hunts for his lost sheep. The widow rummages all over her house looking for her coin. But then the father waits patiently at home longing for his son to return to him.
Maybe that’s a good ratio for the chusrch. I think we would be better to emphasize “go to the seekers” over “seekers, come to us” at a 2 to 1 ratio.



report abuse
 

T

posted September 1, 2006 at 7:11 am


“What do you think? Is this a model for seeker churches? Are they consistent with it?”
I have to agree with Bob’s direct answers to these questions (maybe & no), though not the commentary. I think there’s a significant “model” difference between Paul’s speech at a pagan Academy (that resulted from open dialogue in the marketplace), and the seeker way of doing church services. To put it another way, if anyone was looking to emulate Paul after reading this passage, no one would set up a seeker service and say, “Look, I’ve just done what Paul was doing in Athens.” You might be doing a good thing, but you’re not doing what was done in Athens.
I won’t go so far as to say seeker services are wrong or even less than good on the whole. I do think, though, as I commented yesterday, that the evangelical church’s number one priority of giving in-house presentations has got to change to helping people submit to the reigning of God in the world, of which presentations (in-house and on location) will be a necessary part, but the mission will reshape the presentations (location and content) significantly.



report abuse
 

Julie

posted September 1, 2006 at 7:24 am


I really enjoyed this post! Fun way to look at it.
Might the Acts account collapse a series of encounters or share a trajectory for how the early church expanded more than acting as a model for an actual church service (perhaps you are already saying that)?
What I find sometimes difficult in churches is that they seem to feel the need to express everything at once… as though we must reassure, convict and convert in on shot, one sermon, one weekend.
I like the contradiction you drew out in Romans versus Acts. Worth pondering. Might Paul be contextualizing the message?
Julie



report abuse
 

Jacob

posted September 1, 2006 at 7:58 am


Here’s another one agreeing with Bob’s “maybe” & “no” answers (as a generalization).
Paul’s approach certainly justifies breaking the mold of ministry happening “at church”. I don’t see it as a model for how to “do church”, and little in Paul’s example is typical of the seeker churches I’ve attended or heard about.



report abuse
 

Mark Van Steenwyk

posted September 1, 2006 at 8:29 am


When I was a student at Bethel Seminary, I had a professor (Thorsten Moritz) who used to say things like: “Seeker churches are great, but they’re not churches.” This passage could serve as evidence towards that point. If seeker churches are filling this sort of early church function, then they are a sort of pre-church.



report abuse
 

theajthomas

posted September 1, 2006 at 8:30 am


It’s funny that you should use the term New Community. The grandaddy of all seeker churches – Willow Creek – Actually has a midweek service that is desighned for beleivers and it’s called New Community. I think one mistake people have made in their understanding of seeker sensitive services is that they replace a deeper worship experiance. I think the churches that are doing right would say that their “seeker service” is not their main worship time together as a congregation. The error comes when seeker stuff replaces deeper stuff instead of being added to it.



report abuse
 

jason

posted September 1, 2006 at 8:33 am


i don’t think the parallel works terribly well. my understanding of seeker sensitive churches is that they are trying to make the worship gathering of the christian community more accesssible to unbelievers, which explains why unbelievers will always be a radical minority of those present (and might i add, i still think is a worthwhile effort given certain caveats). conversely, i see in this passage paul trying to make the gospel more accessible to a gathering of unbelievers. i believe the intent – to become all things to all men – comes from the same missional value, but in these two examples it’s being applied in radically opposite arena’s.
what about 1 co 14 as a model? i take paul’s plea for order in the gathering of worship to hang entirely upon his extremely high value for meaning and understanding as a necessary mediator for authentic corporate worship. then, in v22-25 he appeals for the corinthians to consider “some unbelievers” (only a few, perhaps?) who may be present, saying that by making the gathering understandable for them they may be convicted and thereby become worshippers of God. this is exactly how i’ve always understood the seeker sensitive model.



report abuse
 

Bob

posted September 1, 2006 at 8:36 am


Theajthomas,
I agree. Perhaps it is better to think that what Paul is doing here is embodying the church and what its message should look like to the world (i.e. it mission). In his person, is what the aggregate message of the Body should look like. But what is going on internally in Paul in preparation for this proclamation (not part of this passage), is what the gathered church should be doing.
The problem (as you say) comes when the preparation time is forgotten or deferred to small groups and assumed to be occuring. Then we begin to use the gathered church time for proclamation (to ourselves) and forget the message to the world.



report abuse
 

RJS

posted September 1, 2006 at 8:44 am


Perhaps this is more of a model for a good University ministry than for a generic Seeker service. After all it is certainly true that “All the academics and the scholars who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.” to paraphrase v. 21.



report abuse
 

Jonny

posted September 1, 2006 at 10:41 am


the difference seems to be that the “seeker service” is a ‘come to us’ mentality – and Pauls mentality seems to be ‘go to them’ – Paul goes to their spaces and gets invited to their forum.



report abuse
 

Sarah

posted September 1, 2006 at 11:36 am


I have always been intrigued by the altar to the Unknown God passage.
Seeker churches seem to follow Paul’s example, in this case, by creating forums for society’s thinkers to explore spiritual ideas. They, like Paul’s speech, are both generous and directioning toward those outside the faith.
Having a seeker service, then, is certainly not anti-biblical. It serves an “evangelistic” or “exposure” function that is necessary to expanding the kingdom.
If these “seeker services” were the ONLY function of a church then I would perhaps see them as a limited expression of church. However, most seeker models also have streams of ministries that resource the veteran believer.
As long as the “New Community” function is further discipling and inspiring followership of Jesus, then the church is functioning healthily as a gathering of believers. If these believers choose to extend themselves to others who are exploring spirituality, but do not claim the Christian faith, via a seeker service, then I applaud them (as long as they do not neglect their own growth or the continued growth of the “seeker” once he is incorporated into the body.)



report abuse
 

John Musick

posted September 1, 2006 at 12:41 pm


Great breakdown, Scot. I am grateful for your work on it.
I wonder, perhaps if the foundation of Pauls strategy in Athens is revealed in 1 Corinthians 2:3-5:
“I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”
What is this “demonstration of the Spirit’s power?” While no miracles are recorded as being performed by Paul while in Athens, something supernatural was indeed happening.
We read Paul’s appeal to the Athenians and we see structured and wisely organized verbal statements. But I believe there was something more that accompanied Paul and his dialogue that might be missed by us. There was something “sticky” about him and his way. The power of the Spirit was with with him in these conversations. After all before coming to Athens, he was on his way elsewhere until the he had a vision at Troas. It also cannot be overlooked that Paul was humble and internally weak.
Maybe it would behoove us all who care about reaching people to focus more on what it means to be a demonstrator of the Spirit’s power in our culture and less on word parsing and fine sounding arguments.
I am finding that the “lost” people that I am connecting with aren’t looking for answers and air-tight arguments. They’re looking for a hope that is outside of themselves, and like Dionysius and Damaris, they know it when they find it.



report abuse
 

Ron

posted September 1, 2006 at 2:04 pm


I am intrigued by conversations that seem to imply we need a biblical example/chapter-verse for something we are doing in the church for it to be legit. Yet lots of what we do is extrabiblical and lots they did in the NT we clearly don’t do and chalk it up to not be transcultural or transtemporal. Don’t we need a slightly broader discernment process that is more community based, certainly including observations of what the faith communities in the NT did, but recognizing we face questions, issues and circumstances they didn’t? This is what it means for us to be a community who is genuinely improvising the next chapters of Acts, recongizing we may be playing the same chords but definitely playing new music that takes into consideration the venue, audience, and improv partners.



report abuse
 

Scot McKnight

posted September 1, 2006 at 2:11 pm


One that strikes me about Paul’s talk at Areopagus is how he sees their paganism and idolatry as indicative of their search for God.
And, sure, “New Community” is Willow’s discipleship and worship-oriented service. And, yes, Willow sees the weekend services (at least they used to; not so much anymore) as an Areopagus address to lead to evangelism and New Community.



report abuse
 

John Frye

posted September 1, 2006 at 2:33 pm


Bingo, Scot! And I address Bob in comment #4– what’s wrong with bringing the Areopagus model into the ‘church’ building and calling it a ‘seeker service’?
Bob,
Because the speaker was not navigating in Eikon terminology, he didn’t directly call us in those categories to change, BUT he did not harangue us with what we were doing wrong, i.e., a guilt trip. It was “you are doing this and thinking that’s just fine” and God is calling you something higher, more challenging, more self-sacrificing, more for others than for yourself. So, Bob, you might want to use a smaller brush in painting “seeker services” and “seeker churches.”



report abuse
 

chad

posted September 1, 2006 at 3:46 pm


is there such a thing as a model for “seeker” services? i’m hard pressed to see in the “seeker” world any model other than stripping the service of historyicity and tradition. is Paul dumbing down the Gospel to speak to these philosopher types? absolutely not. i’m not suggesting seeker services always dumb down, but isn’t that at least part of the goal; that is, to make the service accessible to those who wouldn’t oherwise attend. Paul seems to be saying God is accessible no matter who you are or what kind of life you live. should our services then try and change that truth about God? finally, i haven’t ever experienced a seeker friendly service that asks people to repent. is there such a thing happening?



report abuse
 

Sarah

posted September 1, 2006 at 4:24 pm


Ron…I follow your point. There are certainly other affirmations, outside of the immediate Biblical text, that may legitimize new/evolving expressions of Christian community.
But if we loosen the descriptive boundaries of the NT church….then what, if any, are the groups of characteristics that must be present for an expression of community to be deemed “church”? And how do we arrive at those characteristics?



report abuse
 

jason

posted September 1, 2006 at 4:29 pm


chad,
in some places, among many unbelieving people – mostly people who have been ignored, judged, and trampled by other churches – historicity and tradition are a sure sign of death. yet, these people must be reached and anything resembling high church religiosity quickly runs them off.
i think there are models for seeker sensitive. at least some of the early church references seem to reveal gatherings that are completely stripped of all vestiges of tradition. greeks and romans had no use for jewish ceremonies, and contemporary americans often have no use for methodist, catholic, and lutheran traditions.
as to your “repentance” question…i grew up in one of the ten largest churches in the country back in the 80’s; everything they did was seeker sensitive, from the rock band to the clever skits to the humorous sermon. and yes, they gave weekly calls to repentance that routinely yielded hundreds of conversions at a time. the largest vineyard in the world (over 6000 people) is located in the town in which i currently reside. they are unabashedly seeker sensitive: every aspect of their presentation is engineered to be accessible to “some unbelievers” who might be among them. yet, every single message without fail, regardless of topic, contains a clear call to repentance. in my own church (only about 1000 people) we are what i like to call a completely stripped-down, blue-collar, low-church seeker sensitive model. our cards even say, “a church for people who didn’t think they’d like church.” i can assure you, not a message is preached in our building without containing a call to repent/submit/sacrifice one’s life to christ.
interestingly i’ve found that people who like church, don’t like us. whereas people who hate church and can’t stand christians often love it here, find christ, and become believers.



report abuse
 

kent

posted September 1, 2006 at 4:50 pm


Paul was good at building bridges of understanding and connection points, whether it was for the Atheans or for the Romans or for the Ephesians. I have been a part of churches that excelled at building barriers. I’ll take door #1.



report abuse
 

Peter Bremen

posted September 1, 2006 at 7:10 pm


Ecclesia, I would think, is the living being which has an inner core which is NOT seeker-friendly but is holy-of-holies. Yet the same living tabernacle has an outer court which is, and should be, somewhat seeker-friendly (while remaining in strict adherence to the requirements of the blood and the crucifixion of the atoning Lamb). And beyond the outer-court, evangelism should be seeker-friendly even to the extent of interpreting the good news into all kinds of works of mercy and service.
I think this is based upon the Tabernacle of Moses pattern and the sacrificial offering-pattern. Outreach is not “church” exactly, because the word “church” rather specifies the presence of that Holy-of-Holies and the Inner Court in which the Lampstand burns and the Communion is shared. But outreach, or seeker-friendliness is relevant to the outermost court of the church, and this can occur in Sunday meetings of the church… or in other sorts of meetings. But outreach never can totally take the place of those exclusive meetings which are only for those who have sanctified themselves.
Peter



report abuse
 

chad

posted September 1, 2006 at 10:31 pm


jason –
while i agree the church is often a messy place and does ignore, judge and trample people, i wonder if you accurately assess historicity and tradition. it seems among the boomer generation this is true, but among younger folks like myself, historicity and tradition equals orthodoxy, faithfulness and freedom. yes, freedom. there is freedom knowing that the worship does not fail if the sermon or music isn’t to everyone’s liking.
i wonder if a seeker service can offer the connection to the communion of saints and to the Church catholic. is it possible to strip the service of traditional symbols and elements and preserve this connection to the world wide church?
all in all, there are times when i hate what is going on in the church and how people act; however, i choose not to place my hope for church renewal in the newest ways to get people saved (which are often manipulative or therapeutic). thanks for your comment!



report abuse
 

Keith Schooley

posted September 1, 2006 at 11:46 pm


To chad (#20):
i’m hard pressed to see in the “seeker” world any model other than stripping the service of historicity and tradition.
If we compare this passage (Acts 17:16-33) with Acts 13:16-41 (Paul’s paradigmatic sermon to the Jewish synagogue) we see just how much “historicity and tradition” Paul did strip out of his sermon at the Areopagus–because it would have had little meaning to the Athenians. (And indeed, we could regard the Acts 13 sermon as “seeker sensitive” to the Jewish diaspora and Gentile “God fearers.” Both are tailored to their audiences.)
Of course, after conversion, a reconnection to historicity and tradition–the Old Testament scriptures–would have occurred.
Scot –
I think you have at least an intriguing spin on the Areopagus message. If I may venture a possible reconciliation with Romans 3: Paul treats his Athenian listeners as at least seekers after something (as you say, “seekers at some level”). In their natural state, the true and living God would not have been the object of their search. But when confronted with the Gospel, the Holy Spirit enables them to respond in faith, at which point they recognize that the One they would always have run from previously is in fact the only possible end of their search.



report abuse
 

John Carlson

posted September 2, 2006 at 1:52 am


I would encourage anyone with critical words to say of Willow Creek (or seeker churches) to please read this blog posting from Shaun Groves.
http://readshlog.blogspot.com/2006/08/how-relevant-is-relevant-imitating.html.
It’s a story of someone who had preconceived ideas about what Willow (and seeker churches) are about – and then came away with a much different perception after seeing it first hand.
I feel it’s really impossible ot use “seeker churches” as an accurate description of a church model as there is no one “model” for lack of better words that aptly could describe all seeker churches. There just is no such thing. I’d suggest that anyone critical of the approach, to make references and comments to a specific church you have actual first hand study, attendance and experience with, before casting judgement.
John Carlson
Former Willow Creek Staff – 1991-2002
Came to Christ at Willow – 1987.
Current Music Directtor, Parkview Evangelical Free Church, Ioiwa City IA.



report abuse
 

Steve May

posted September 2, 2006 at 12:14 pm


I find a few things interesting about this passage, and I would certainly like your thoughts on it, Scot.
First, Paul doesn’t appear to mention Jesus by name. He appears to refer to him only as “the man he [God] has appointed.”
Second, we know Paul’s Christology, so I’m curious why the divinity of Jesus wasn’t mentioned, much less made its acknowledgment requisite in the listener’s response.
Third, his appeal to repent, which connotes behavioral change for listeners today, appears in this context to refer merely to thinking a new way about the nature of God. Or am I wrong? Did the Athenians hear Paul’s words and assoctiate repentence with adopting a new behavior?



report abuse
 

Scot McKnight

posted September 2, 2006 at 2:27 pm


Steve,
I’m thinking the name issue is resolved by contextual flow from the first paragraph.
The second question: we can’t ask anyone to bring up everything they have to say each time they talk.
We can assume, because of the meaning of “repent” in the OT and NT elsewhere, that he was expecting them to turn from sin and self to Jesus. From sin to God. So, we can be reasonably confident they would hear it as a heart-change leading to behavioral change.
John Carlson,
Thanks for that much-needed caution.



report abuse
 

Steve May

posted September 2, 2006 at 3:14 pm


Thanks, Scot. I guess I was getting at: Is this passage a Biblical Model for seeker-sensitive preaching? Can Luke’s summary of Paul’s sermon be used as a template of sorts?
This is specifically why I mentioned #2. I realize Paul can’t bring up everything he knows each time he talks, but I assume he brought up everything he thought the Athenians needed to know. That’s what I wonder: what did Paul consider to be essential knowledge of Jesus, and does this passage give us a clue?



report abuse
 

jason

posted September 2, 2006 at 3:38 pm


chad – i assure you i’m not assessing liturgical traditions, i’m assessing people. personally, i enjoy participating in certain traditions for the very reason you commend them. however, the fact remains that these are obstacles to faith for many people in their connection with God, usually because of the baggage they bring to the table.
these people want God in a meaningful way, and the body of Christ owes a huge debt of gratitude to seeker churches for bothering to contextualize christianity to people through relevant contemporary idioms.

i wonder if a seeker service can offer the connection to the communion of saints and to the Church catholic. is it possible to strip the service of traditional symbols and elements and preserve this connection to the world wide church?

great question! in my opinion it can. there are ways to connect with the ancient stream of christianity without the adoption of foreign liturgies. however, i think many have shown that churches can introduce traditional elements in an irregular and carefully re-contextualized way that is sensitive to the unbelievers in their midst (isn’t that seeker sensitive?). to borrow a phrase, i think tradition makes a great slave but a terrible master.



report abuse
 

Scot McKnight

posted September 2, 2006 at 3:39 pm


Steve,
Yes, in fact, here is an example of evangelism in a “seeker” mode (if you will) — which to me moving from where they are (as religious interested people) to where they need to go.
And we can’t be sure that Luke tells us all Paul said.
Perhaps we should say that what Paul thought they needed was the message of the cross and resurrection.
What Paul does is adequate for the preaching of the gospel — some believed. His sermon is not what everyone did, etc, and all those kinds of qualifications.



report abuse
 

philjohnson

posted September 3, 2006 at 1:44 am


Steve
Regarding your comments listed at number 28:-
Before Paul is invited to address the Areopagus he is shown in Acts 17:16ff as speaking in the agora (marketplace). Those who listened and chatted with him were intrigued because to them it seemed that he was a proclaimer of new deities because Paul was talking about Jesus and the resurrection (verse 18). As the term for resurrection anastasis is a feminine word, the initial hearers may have presupposed that Iesous (Jesus) was the a male deity and anastasis was the female deity. Verse 19 then indicates that they brought Paul to the Areopagus and asked “may we know what this new teachings is…”
So in the context of the subsequent Areopagus speech it is already understood that Paul has introduced the figure of Jesus.
What we should take from this entire episode is that it shows how Paul addressed people who had never read the Old Testament (unlike his synagogue sermons).
I suggest that much of our modern evangelistic activity has operated on a synagogue model presuming that people have some familiarity with the Bible and some awareness of its vocabulary (sin, repentance, atonement etc). Now that is fine if we are dealing with people who already know a few Biblical abc’s. However as much of the contemporary western world has been raised without a church background and are biblically illiterate, it behooves us then to consider the Areopagus approach as a case study for our time. That is we become cross-cultural missionaries in our homelands (USA, Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand etc).
In the history of missions, the Areopagus address has been a valuable model of encouragement. Essentially it demonstrates certain features of cross-cultural missions: Paul does contextualise his message to meet the audience; he finds points of contact and points of irony and contrast; he cites their own poets (Stoic philosophers such as Cleanthes and Epimenides). Consistent with his preaching elsewhere (especially to Jews) he rejects idols and affirms monotheism, and consistent with the general apostolic preachment he has both Jesus and the resurrection (the power of the Risen Christ to transform lives).
The Areopagus model also partly informed the “logos spermatikos” apologetic of Justin Martyr, and it influenced one aspect of the theology of religions espoused by Clement of Alexandria, Origen and others during the second century AD.
I have tried to apply the Areopagus model in my writings and in direct missional dialogue and outreach among new religious movements, in New Age festivals, among neo-pagans and so forth.



report abuse
 

Peter Bremen

posted September 3, 2006 at 5:23 pm


Scot and philjohnson,
Thank you for these posts on the Areopagus model for seeker services. This has been instructive for me.
When I posted earlier, I must have been tired or had some other great excuse, because I certainly did not know what the original question may have been.
I agree that Paul’s Areopagus speech is a good model for a seeker service.
Peter



report abuse
 

Jim

posted September 4, 2006 at 2:38 pm


Great ideas, Scot. I teach a Luke-Acts course at Azusa Pacific University, and Acts 17 is one of places we park and ponder for an extended amount of time. It is really instructive, especially for many of my students who have grown up in the church.
I believe that Paul is engaging, in Athens, (in the Areopagus and the agora “marketplace”), in pre-evangelism. The Athenians know nothing of the historical person Jesus, so Paul does not mention Jesus by name. Nor does he quote any Old Testament verses. Why? Contextually, they would have meant nothing. Paul does preach the gospel directly in Athens, in the synagogues, which was his pattern in Acts.
It seems to me that Paul is both affirming and challenging. That is, he affirms the good things the Athenians believe or do, but then goes on to show how inadequate their beliefs or actions are. In other words, he is trying to intrigue them into considering a better way.
For example, it is common religious practice to bring gifts of food and drink to shrines. A positive sign of the religious, or “seeking God” impulse. And yet, Paul implies in verses 24-25 that we don’t feed God, God feeds us. God does not need us, we need God.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.
Of course, there are many who argue that Paul’s efforts in Athens were a failure. When he went to Corinth, he seems to have rejected the intellectual portrayal of the gospel, and stuck to a “Christ and him crucified” approach.
I am continually challenged by Paul’s “outside-the-box” approach at Athens. He went to the Areopagus, he did not wait for them to come to him. He went to the marketplace, he did not wait for them to come to him. This, I think, is the challenge to the American church, whether seeker oriented, or missional, or emergent, or mainline, or whatever. In a post-Christian culture, we no longer have the home field advantaqe, and need to strategize how to share the gospel on the “away” field.
Keep up the great work, Scot.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

More Blogs To Enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Jesus Creed. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Red Letters with Tom Davis Recent prayer post on Prayables Most Recent Inspiration blog post Happy Reading!  

posted 11:15:58am Aug. 16, 2012 | read full post »

Our Common Prayerbook 30 - 3
Psalm 30 thanks God (vv. 1-3, 11-12) and exhorts others to thank God (vv. 4-5). Both emerge from the concrete reality of David's own experience. Here is what that experience looks like:Step one: David was set on high and was flourishing at the hand of God's bounty (v. 7a).Step two: David became too

posted 12:15:30pm Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Theology After Darwin 1 (RJS)
One of the more important and more difficult pieces of the puzzle as we feel our way forward at the interface of science and faith is the theological implications of discoveries in modern science. A comment on my post Evolution in the Key of D: Deity or Deism noted: ...this reminds me of why I get a

posted 6:01:52am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Almost Christian 4
Who does well when it comes to passing on the faith to the youth? Studies show two groups do really well: conservative Protestants and Mormons; two groups that don't do well are mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics. Kenda Dean's new book is called Almost Christian: What the Faith of Ou

posted 12:01:53am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Let's Get Neanderthal!
The Cave Man Diet, or Paleo Diet, is getting attention. (Nothing is said about Culver's at all.) The big omission, I have to admit, is that those folks were hunters -- using spears or smacking some rabbit upside the conk or grabbing a fish or two with their hands ... but that's what makes this diet

posted 2:05:48pm Aug. 30, 2010 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.