Today, I’m closing out my series of 3 cultural engagement posts called “7 Tips on Engaging Skeptics Like Paul Did in Athens.” In parts 1 and 2, I shared 5 simple lessons from Paul’s time in Athens:
- Care About People
- Prepare for Insults and Interest
- Find a Point of Contact
- Help Them Connect the Dots
- Recognize the Potential for Truth in Culture
In this post, I’ll share 2 final tips we can learn from the Apostle Paul’s engagement strategy.
6. Expect Interruptions
Ever feel like you often get interrupted just when you’re starting to make some headway with that skeptical relative or your skeptical friend? Don’t let it get to you. If you take a look at the Apostle Paul’s record, you’ll see that it happened to him a bunch, too.
In Athens, he never even got to the clincher. He never got to the gospel. He never got to explain the resurrection in terms of, “You’re going to be accountable to someone. You’re going to be accountable to Jesus Christ.” Why? Because they had a pretty tough time accepting his claim that Jesus physically rose from the dead.
This kind of stuff happens to me. It happened to Paul. And if you haven’t experienced this yet, just be prepared for the fact that it’ll happen to you. You’re not in a race to “close the deal” like some kind of salesperson. Remember, these are your friends. Your relatives. People you care about and want the best for. Just be on the lookout for another opportunity to keep the conversation going and know that the Lord is pleased with your faithful witness for him.
Here’s the point: Don’t sweat it when your conversations get interrupted. God was patient with you. Ask him for the grace to be patient with your skeptical friends and relatives. He loves them even more than you do!
7. Be a People Mover
My mentor, Dr. Darrell Bock, once told me that Paul’s words in Acts 17 were “entirely subversive.” I like the way he explained Paul’s goal in this particular encounter: “His goal was to take them where they were and bring them to a place where they certainly were not.” Kind of brings the idea of a people-mover to my mind. Maybe because I’ve spent a lot of time in airports since the time I was a little kid!
But in the midst of doing all this, the Apostle Paul identified with their cultural artifacts: Icons, idols, temples and shrines. He was familiar enough with popular culture to the point where he could grab their attention and effectively engage—even quoting their own poets while making his point about God.
Here, I see Paul being strategically inviting, carefully building a bridge and being a people-mover. After doing all of this, he skillfully turned the conversation in a direction that would get them to reconsider the way they thought about religion and the quest for spirituality in a totally new way—giving them a fresh perspective that totally undercuts the way they thought about all this it before.
Here’s the point: Know where your friends are at. Know where they need to go spiritually. And don’t lose sight of your role as an ambassador of Christ—to keep that conversation alive and share with them the opportunity to experience God’s love, grace, forgiveness and the hope we have in Jesus.
I’d encourage you to read Acts 17:16-32 once again and ask the Lord to give you a renewed boldness for engaging the culture and being his ambassador in this world. I hope you enjoyed this mini-series on “7 Tips on Engaging Skeptics Like Paul Did in Athens.” If you did, please share this post on Facebook, Twitter and your other social networks. Thanks!