I am preparing some talks on Acts for a church-planting conference in a couple of weeks. What I want to say, roughly, is 1) that the apostles went about their mission with a powerful historical—or apocalyptic—narrative in mind; 2) that the churches they planted were not just churches, they were communities of God’s new future for Europe, they were the means by which the righteousness of Israel’s God would be demonstrated to the pagan world; and 3) that church-planting in Europe today needs to be undertaken with a similar “narrative-historical” mindset. Hopefully it won’t sound quite as dry and theoretical as that.
The apostles did not set out to save lost souls or to convert Europe to Christianity. They set out to proclaim to the peoples of the Greek-Roman world that the God of Israel had raised his Son from the dead and made him the coming judge and ruler of the nations.
The apostles were not evangelists or missionaries in the popular sense. Their message or gospel was much more like that of Moses’ announcement to Pharaoh or Jonah’s to the people of Nineveh. Moses told Pharaoh that YHWH was about to act to deliver his people—a public and political event. Jonah told the Ninevites that in forty days YHWH would overthrow the city—a public and political event. For the apostles the resurrection of Jesus was confirmation that in the not too distant future YHWH would overthrow the whole idolatrous pagan system—a public and political event. God is no longer willing to overlook the centuries of ignorance; he commands all people to repent of the worship of idols (Acts 17:30). The task of the apostles was to make this known across the empire, from Judea to Spain.