Did that title get your attention? (Grin)
We'll see how it makes sense as we study this week.
We've all been in situations where we felt like someone was knocking us over the head with a two by four, no? Sometimes it is a discussion about everyday life, and sometimes it is a discussion about spiritual things. (I see your heads nodding.)
Have you ever held off on witnessing to someone, or speaking a word for Christ, because the hearer was a "religious" person, or even because you knew they were a Christian, and perhaps senior to you in their faith timeline?
You wondered if you would be seen as "head-bashing"?
This week we will continue in the book of Acts . . . these thoughts are from the story of Paul and Silas and Lydia, and I hope that they will bless us and instruct us all.
I mentioned last week that I felt a special empathy for Lydia, and enjoyed her story because she was a successful executive. I'm in the business world every day, and I can vouch for the fact that many times what you can accomplish depends less on what you say, and more on how you say it! It's the same situation in our witnessing . . . of course, we see a crying need for witnessing to people who are hurting, who are actively seeking Christ, and even those who are opposing us. But witnessing to people who seem religious? Is this an oxymoron?
I don't think so. In fact, I think we can see from Paul's example, that it's an important part of our testimony. There are all kinds of religious people: some are very committed to their church, and others may belong but don't often attend. Still others don't darken the doors of any church, but they still consider themselves religious: they may profess to have a relationship with Christ, and we may even see some fruits of the Spirit in their lives.
Why would we witness to them?
Wouldn't it seem like we are head-bashing, because they already "know" so much of what we would tell them?
Well, sometimes it's just a matter of saying the right thing at the right time.
What did Paul do?
Paul went down to the river side, and witnessed to some religious people there. It appears to be a women's prayer group that he is attending. And this verse tells how it happened:
On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. (Acts 16:13)Did he begin to harangue and have a fierce discussion? Did he start fussing about why there were no men there, so that a synagogue could begin?
Nope. He sat down.
And he talked with them. No "head-bashing" here. More of a quiet chat.
Notice there are no men here; this is a group of women who are gathered for prayer on the Sabbath. Lydia seems to have been a Gentile who met with them. The terms "worshiper of God" or "God-fearer" were words that often were used to describe Gentiles who were attracted to the Jewish God and the stories that they heard from the Old Testament. We mentioned last week that they were gathered there on the river bank because there were not enough men folk in the town who would be committed to the needs of a synagogue -- it took ten men to organize.
Does the quiet approach appear to have worked? It doesn't seem by worldly standards that Paul is very successful, since only one of these religious women responds to his teaching that afternoon: Lydia. Paul and Silas are "big-time" evangelists, and they travel all the way to Philippi and sit down for a quiet talk with a prayer group. Only one person is converted . . . . of course, later, Lydia's whole family was baptized, but their first effort only brought in one soul.
Even if Lydia was the only person in her family that became a Christian, God would have considered their low-key efforts a success -- it looks like God sent Paul to this city, and to this prayer group, just for Lydia. Because she seems to have formed the backbone of the church that was quickly established there!
What if Paul hadn't followed the Spirit's instructions? What if he had given one of his dynamic sermons like we see him give in other situations? Would the results have been the same? Maybe not. There are times when a "cookies and milk" approach is just what is needed.
We'll consider this further next time. Hope you will rejoin us!