As you receive this message, I'm traveling through Turkey with a group of Luther Seminary supporters and friends following the life and ministry of my favorite missionary, Paul. One of the places I'm most excited to visit is the city of Ephesus.
The role of Ephesus as a central place for missionary proclamation in the New Testament is amazing!
Many New Testament writings that focus on the encounter between Paul's Gospel and Greek thinking seem to be related to this incredibly well-preserved ancient city on the west coast of Turkey. First Corinthians was written from this place. Its cultural milieu is reflected in the letters to the Colossians and the Ephesians. And the Johannine tradition is often associated with Ephesus. This city is simply the place where many cultures and religions came together. Thus, into this place of cultural and religious life, come Paul and the Easter message of resurrection.
Where is your Ephesus? I believe that one of the keys to Paul's missionary strategy is that he brought the message of resurrection into the cultural and religious centers of his day. So where is that hub of dialogue for you and your congregation? In Acts 19, Paul brings his message of bodily resurrection into the Synagogue ... then into the lecture hall of Tyrannus ... "so that all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord" (Acts 19:10).
Our boldness as witnesses is to take our Easter into the various public squares where people are genuinely discussing the weighty philosophical and ideological matters of our day. The Easter message is a light on a hill. Bodily resurrection matters. The Kingdom of God matters. Jesus' victory over death matters. These messages belong at the center of our lives—our public lives.
Thus, one missionary strategy for any congregation is to find your Ephesus. And learn from the New Testament how Paul brought his Easter message right into the heart of Greek culture. It's a missionary mandate we've all received.
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