Acts 17:17 NIV84 - …He reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.
By the time the Apostle Paul visited Athens, Rome was certainly the center of the Empire and the Political Hub. However, Athens was a highly cultured, educated, religious, and wealthy city that was very proud of its history and arts, and it was considered an intellectual center. Paul faced a very challenging audience in Athens.
As was his practice, Paul went into the synagogue to reason with those who would have had a value for, and understanding of, the Scriptures. First addressing those with similar culture, familiar and shared values, and a common language in order to foster communication and present the Gospel.
The ministry in the “synagogue” is valuable, and likely the most productive place to start the ministry in a city or region. But, we must also take the NEXT step and like the Apostle Paul, we must make it a point to step out of the comfortable surroundings of our “synagogue” and daily enter the market place to reach those who would not have had a value in, or reference to, the Christ of Israel.
Obviously, the modern Church Gathering, whether in a Cathedral, a tent, or a house, is like the ancient synagogues: an Outpost of Light within the Darkness, a Place of Worship, Learning, and Fellowship. However, it was never intended to be an isolated castle hidden behind moats and barriers. The Life of the Church and its Ministry is not simply somewhere we go, but it is something we are to BRING into the marketplace of our lives and community.
Our ministry to the Bay Area communities has many parallels with the mission of the Apostle Paul to Athens and Corinth. In many ways, our modern secular community views itself as the Athenians did so long ago; and unfortunately, many have deemed Christianity to be irrelevant, and even further they are no longer neutral regarding our Faith, but are in open opposition to it. Then need has never been greater for us to get back into “the marketplace day by day.”
Dr. Tobey Montgomery