Six Questions for Engaging with Cultures

There are two names for this series of blogs: ‘What we can learn from failed church planting’ or ‘How does the Church exist in culture?’.

We’re going to be looking through Paul’s visit to Athens in Acts 17. I don’t know if Paul expected to plant a Church in Athens, or if he was just intending to have a flying visit whilst he waited for his friends Silas and Timothy to arrive, but I wouldn’t be surprised if at the back of his mind, Paul was thinking that he’d quite like to have got something off the ground by the time Silas and Timothy got there.

When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them scoffed, but others said, “We will hear you again about this.”
— Acts 17:32

Either way, this story doesn’t end in a Church plant, or at least, we don’t stay in Athens long enough to see the Church develop. Verse 32 tells us that the reaction to Paul was that:

  1. some scoffed
  2. others said, “We will hear you again about this.”
  3. some of them joined him

If you’re going to plant a Church, then I reckon these are three sensible options of what you can expect from people you engage with.

Scoffing, intrigue and a few people joining in. Unlike earlier passages in Acts in which thousands are added to their number, I quite like the modest addition that we are told join with Paul from Athens. So it’s not an overwhelming triumph for Paul’s Church planting movement, but it still teach us quite a lot about how Paul engaged with cultures which he was trying to plant churches in.

I quite like the modest addition that we are told join with Paul

In this series of blog, we're going to unpack this passage, look at what Paul does and then to use this as a model for us— not necessarily as church planters (although that will be helpful) but as people engaged in the church and in a culture.

For this to be helpful for you, you’ll need to think about where your city is— this might be an actual city like Athens (or York), or it may be something smaller. Like a University, or a workplace, or even a street.

These questions will help us to think about how we exist as Christians in the cities and cultures we live, work and interact with and ask what it means to be engaged here.

So pick your city ...