In the western suburbs of Sydney there is a shopping centre that has been badged the ‘Carnes Hill Marketplace’. They suggest to those in the area that they are “Your Place to Meet, Your Place to Shop, Your Community Square.”
This is a widespread trend – modern shopping centers marketing themselves as ‘marketplaces’.
Back in the first century marketplaces fulfilled these meet, shop and community functions BUT they were so much more. They were the places of ideas. Places where big questions were asked and debated. The marketplace was an unpredictable and unsanitized gathering place.
I had the privilege last year of standing on Mars Hill looking down over the Athenian marketplace of Pauls’ time. Overshadowing Mars Hills is the architectural grandeur of the Parthenon. This is the scene of Paul’s ministry in Athens as recorded by Luke in Acts 17. A plaque of the Acts 17 passage is now attached to a rock face at the entrance to the area.
The Acts 17 passage has long been an inspiration and a challenge for me personally. There are two things I find revitalising from this passage:
What stands out to me is Paul’s confidence in the Gospel in engaging with the religious plurality of the Athenian world. His confidence in the Gospel no doubt grows out of his transformative experience of faith in Jesus. It is a salutary reminder to reassess our confidence in sharing the good news of Jesus in our contemporary scene.
How is my connection to Jesus? Am I giving time to nurturing my experience of Jesus?
The other sticking feature for me is Paul’s competence in sharing the good news of Jesus in a variety of different contexts. Paul took the context of the people he was engaging with very seriously. He sought to find appropriate bridges to connect with the worldview of his audiences. In Luke’s abbreviated record of Paul’s ministry in Athens, he highlights his engagement with the Jewish community in the synagogue, the commercial traders in the marketplace and the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers of the Areopagus.
Believing Jesus is the answer, that’s the issue of confidence.
How might I engage in a helpful way – that’s the issue of competence.
In conclusion, I ask what might my confident and competent engagement look like with 3 groups in my “marketplace”?
A. The religious people in my world. Most communities in Australia today present people from all of the worlds religions. The mission field has come to us and the challenge is how might I – how might you take an ACTS 17 approach to these seekers in our midst.
B. The local commercial community. What bridges am I building with my local business owners – be it informally or via membership of Rotary or the like?
C. The thought leaders. How can I connect with and influence in a helpful way local politicians, local radio and local newspaper journalists and bloggers?
Food for thought.
If you like this blog please share it