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THE HOLY SPIRIT AND CONTEXTUALIZATION

FIFTEEN MISSIOLOGICAL PRINCIPLES IN ACTS 8

Theology is the study of God and most sermons use scripture to discover information about Him, our relationship with Him, and our responsibilities to Him. In this lesson, also from God's Word, however, we will be looking at methodology — how we effectively do the work of God. Good missiology-good methods of doing crosscultural Christian work — glorifies God, so these fifteen missiological principles deserve our attention. Missiology serves Theology. How we communicate the gospel crossculturally (our missiology) helps us do well at sharing our important message-the study of God, our relationship with Him, and what He wants from humankind (Theology).

One - God is willing to accept less than ideal reasons for our going to the mission field. He can still use us in our imperfect, yet developing condition. From verses 1 and 4 it is apparent that Phillip left Jerusalem for Samaria to flee persecution, even though years earlier Jesus had said to leave Jerusalem and go toe Judea, Samaria (mentioned by name) and the uttermost parts of the earth to communicate the gospel. Because I may want to have adventure abroad is an inferior motive, but having my right motives partially clouded by that inferior motive is not a good enough reason not to go. The right reason is obedience — a theme to which we will return soon — but I will not not go just because my motive may be less than 100% correct.

Two - What you finish is more important that what you begin. (3) "Saul began to destroy the church." But he did not complete this project; he changed. Very few of us are totally happy about how we began, what we began, or everything that has happened thus far with our lives. None of us had any control on where, when, or how we were born. But all of us can do something about how we go on from here and how we end. It is better to constructively develop plans to finish well than to lament our poor or mistaken beginnings.

Three - A Christ-centered ministry with miracles and deliverance from evil spirits may produce revival and rapid numerical growth in God's church, but expect a back-lash and don't get to elated and inflated over early successes. (7) Our enemy does not happily yield his "spoils." The evil spirits who shrieked in verse 7 return in an even more vicious and devious counterattack later in the story. There is an adversary.

Four - Make room for the ministry of others. (14) Phillip evidently did not get bent out of shape when Peter and John — who out-ranked him — arrived and the drama focused more on them, their gifts, discernment, dramatic power encounter, and victory. The revival was not Phillip's; it was God's. If God wants to use a Peter and John in "your" revival, let him. To tolerate the ministry of others is better than to reject it, but to genuinely and unselfishly welcome it is better yet.

Five - Plan ahead for how you will deal with your "Simon the Sorcerer." (18 & 19) Learn to see what is happening spiritually. Love people. Fight spiritually against the spirits that work through people. This is an important distinction. The issues may be money, power, authority, or ego, but look beyond, beneath, and behind the person to the invisible spiritual forces that work through the visible person and plan ahead to wage spiritual war against the right enemy. Be prepared to fast, pray, intercede, pray in the Spirit, and travail until spiritual victory is fully accomplished.

Six - Success in God's work is measured by the degree to which we obey God, not the appearance of what people call success. "So he started out, and on his way . . ." (27) Phillip obeyed the angel and went south to a desert road before he knew whom he would meet. When we have this major paradigm shift, our whole perspective changes with it: The ultimate criterion for reward — the ultimate standard for measuring worth in God's eyes — is obedience; not numbers, appearance, things, connections, or any of the issues with which any become preoccupied.

Seven - Do not assume that God will begin to work in a place only after you arrive. God may have already been working. Verses 27 & 28 tell what God was doing before Phillip got there. Assume that God is there ahead of you, find out what He is doing, and move with Him. Find the illustrations of Christian truth appropriate to the local culture — redemptive analogies — that God has placed there ahead of your arrival. Use those and move with God.

Eight - Go where God says and be willing to "stay near it" before you begin to say anything. The Spirit told Phillip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it." In our mission fields, in order to "stay near it" we need to get our ears to the ground and be connected. (29) Assess the situation. Do a soil test. Learn the language, culture, history, jokes, proverbs, and contemporary issues of a place, read the newspaper, then speak.

Nine - “Phillip ran up to the chariot and heard the man." (30) This principle is similar to the one above, but it adds the uniqueness of individual personalities. When we listen, we know what questions to ask and what to say. When we "hear" people and know what each person is saying, we can communicate more even though we say less.

Ten - Show interest in the other party; ask questions. "Do you understand what you are reading?" (30) Even when Phillip did speak, he began with a question. Questions are marvelous tools. They show interest, humility, and willingness to learn. They move us into the conceptual "world" of the other party. Questions give us the information we need to reach the other person's heart. It is more important to reach a person's heart than to impress them with our knowledge. Questions often serve our purpose better than statements. To arrive physically and geographically is the easiest part. To get into the conceptual world of the other party is infinitely more important. What is their job? What are their interests? How much do they know, if anything, about God? What offenses have other believers caused that we may need to diffuse?

Eleven - Let God open the doors. The eunuch invited Phillip into his chariot. (31) Let's talk about doors. Is the openness of a door enough reason to walk through it? No. Is the fact that a door is closed enough reason to not pray that it be opened? No. We need both an open door and the impulse of the Spirit to know we should walk through. God does open doors and there are distracting doors. Sometimes our efforts to open wrong doors or walk through distracting open doors put us in wrong places. If we are in wrong places, we are not available when the right doors open.

Twelve - Begin where the receptors are. "Phillip began with that very passage." (3) People are at different places or stages of development culturally, morally, intellectually, and spiritually. Accept people where they are and begin with that. In missiology it is called "starting point and process." God doesn't leave them where they are, He moves them forward and so should we, but He does begin with people where they are and so should we.

Thirteen - Don't be afraid of baptism soon after conversion. The initiative for baptism came from the eunuch, not Phillip. (36) "The Eunuch said, 'Look here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?'" Baptism is an initiation rite and provides a public confession — a rite of passage from one belief system to another. Post baptismal care will help converts live up to their baptism. All over the world there are great debates about the length of the training period after conversion before baptism is allowed. This story from Acts 8 and the one about Paul at Philippi in Acts 16, address that. The Bible teaches quick baptism and continuous post-baptismal care.

Fourteen - Don't be afraid to minister in "closed" countries — enemy territory. (40) Azotus was Philistine territory — traditionally the enemies of Jews. Yet Phillip was there, traveled about, and preached in all the towns. Phillip did not allow geopolitical considerations to influence his missionary strategy. Two good criteria for deciding where to go as missionaries are: Where the Spirit leads and responsiveness to the gospel. Another one, however, unfortunately is often used: geopolitical issues. It must be considered, but it is not the most important criteria. Politically it was inconvenient to live in China, but the hearts of the Chinese people are wide open. Their open hearts are a more important consideration than the convenience of our living situation.

Fifteen - Keep your family in good order and your ministry will continue into the next generations. You may ask where did I get that in this text? (40) ". . .he reached Caesarea." Acts records that years later Phillip's four daughters were prophetesses in Caesarea and gave a message to Paul who was on his way to Jerusalem (Acts 21:8-9). If traveler, missionary, crosscultural Christian worker — the busy man — Phillip had daughters who were serving the Lord in Caesarea years later, that did not "just happen." Phillip and his wife apparently intentionally made a point of raising their daughters to serve God. That is good missionary strategy; raise the next generation of godly persons who will carry on where we leave off.

Each of us ought to be able to find several of these principles that apply to us. They are not limited to foreign missions. They are equally applicable in our home countries. Let's allow the Bible to influence our methodology as we try to be the best missionaries possible wherever God places us.