Go to Where the People Are

A Common Difficulty

A common difficulty in planning an outreach for the Gospel in a community is deciding where to start. What should the focus of study be? How should such a focus be said? How should the outreach be structured? These are all important questions to answer, but another question should be answered first: Where are the people?

What Paul Did

Paul when visiting a new city to evangelize would as a common practice to begin in the synagogues (if there were any) then proceed to where the local people gathered, such as the marketplace. This allowed him to go to where Jews and Gentiles “were” respectively. For example, in Athens Paul went to the Areopagus (Mars Hill) primarily because it was a focal meeting point of the city, and especially a focal meeting point of worship (Acts 17:16ff).

Once there, Paul would then focus upon where the people were not just physically, but spiritually as well – focusing on spiritual questions pertinent to their own culture and lack of understanding to lead them to the Gospel. In the synagogue, Paul would answer questions about the Messiah. In the marketplace, town center, or Areopagus, Paul would answer questions about idolatry or the resurrection from the dead (cf. Acts 17:22ff).

The Key Goal

Of course, once Paul was where the people were physically and spiritually, the goal was not only to answer questions of where they “were”, but to answer far more. Any of our outreach efforts should have the same goal in mind. It is difficult to share a message to people who have no foundation of understanding of its meaning, so you must start where they “are” spiritually. However, it is also of paramount importance to move beyond answering the basics and to challenge people toward spiritual maturity (cf. Heb 5).

When we share the Gospel with our friends and neighbors throughout the community, we must understand where they “are” in order to best present the power of Christ. Once we answer the question: “Where are the people?”, and have gone to where they are, then the only thing to do is to lead them from where they “are” to where they need to be in Christ.

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