I really want to see in my day what I see in the New Testament. In its pages I see the gospel multiplying out across the Roman Empire reaching rich and poor alike. I see disciples being made, churches being planted and leaders being sent to new places that have yet to hear the good news.
When I see these extraordinary events, I feel compelled to ask myself, “what’s it going to take to see this happen in my own city?” That makes me start to think that maybe if we do what they did in the Bible, we might just also see what they saw.
In my intro Bonus Bible Episode, I made the case that as the author of Acts and of the gospel that bears his name, Luke was trying to suggest that the leaders of the early church were copying Jesus’ mission strategy. I have found that the results of the actions of people like Peter and Paul look eerily similar to the outcomes of Jesus’ actions.
So if the early church tried to make disciples like Jesus made disciples, why shouldn’t I try to do the same?
Where’s the proof?
In the aforementioned podcast episode, I went over the evidence that showed how the disciples in Acts patterned their ministry off of Jesus’ model in the gospel of Luke. The author showed the parallels in three ways:
I’ll go over how Luke did this in three successive blog posts, this being the first.
There are a few instances where Acts directly quotes Luke…or at least almost directly quotes Luke.
Paul’s Entry Strategy
“And as was his custom, [Jesus] went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.” –Luke 4:16b
“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures” –Acts 17:1-2
So Jesus and Paul both went into the Synagogue as was their custom to tell people the scriptures
Paul’s Exit Strategy
And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them. –Luke 9:5
But [Paul and Barnabas] shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. –Acts 13:51
Somehow, Jesus’ instructions to “shake the dust off your feet against” people who reject the gospel was passed down from the twelve in Luke 9 to Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13.
Entering synagogues in new towns to teach the Word and leaving areas when people reject the gospel are both a part of Jesus’ and Paul’s mission strategy. So this starts to give us the first glimpses of the early church copying Jesus’ mission strategy.
Can We Apply This?
So maybe we can start to apply this too. I don’t necessarily mean that you should go to a synagogue to preach about Jesus (I mean, you can if you want), but maybe we can see in the biblical characters’ methods a principle to apply.
The synagogue was a place where Jesus and Paul could find spiritually interested people, so we can think through where we can find spiritually interested people as well. And if we share the gospel in those places, but don’t find people interested we can “shake the dust off our feet” and go to the next place.
That’s my thought, but how would you try to apply this principle to your ministry?
I would be remiss if I did not note that Stephen’s dying words were quite similar to the Savior’s words He spoke from the cross. This makes me believe that if we do what Jesus did we might suffer and maybe even die like He did as well.
Think about these verses below and count the cost for yourself.
“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’” –Luke 23:34
“Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!‘ And having said this he breathed his last.” –Luke 23:46
“While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.‘ Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.” Acts 7:59-60