Originally published on ceministries.org.
What is the first place you visit when you arrive somewhere new? I have learned different tactics from those I have travelled with in the past. Some head straight for the landmark building to get the sightseeing in early. Others head straight to a restaurant to sample the local cuisine. More than one has always seemed to be in search of the nearest public toilet!
But as I read of the apostle Paul’s travels in the New Testament, it strikes me that he had a different tactic altogether. When Paul arrived in a new city for the first time, he headed straight for the place where the biggest crowds were gathered.
Consider these famous verses from Acts 17:16-17:
“While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the market-place day by day with those who happened to be there.“
The digital market-place
In the ancient world, the synagogue was the hub of religious life for Jews; a place of teaching and learning. Likewise, the market-place was the hub of civic and commercial life; a place of debate and discussion. These are the places where crowds would have congregated to share ideas and to challenge one another’s ways of thinking.
If he was alive today, I have no doubt that Paul would have found a presence on the Internet. Perhaps a video clip of one of his sermons would have gone viral as people heard the “new teaching” about Jesus that he was proclaiming and shared it among their contemporaries.
Today, the Internet is not just the place where crowds gather in what they call “social networks.” It is also a marketplace of ideas. People share their stories of life with one another, offering testimonies to the philosophies they live by and inviting others to join their way of thinking.
That is why CEM has produced a short animated video outlining the good news of Jesus in just over two minutes. It has been purposefully designed for people to share online, giving Christians a tool for their evangelism as they seek to make the gospel story known as the one true story of life.
The distress of idols
The digital marketplace today is not unlike the marketplace of ancient Athens: it is full of competing ideas, and many of them are false ones. Paul was motivated in his ministry by the abundance of idols he encountered. These were false gods, false philosophies, false stories about life which the Athenians were living by. Paul was distressed by them. So he went to where the crowds were and sought to share the truth about Jesus with them there, in the manner in which they were most able to hear.
The digital marketplace has a different language. It engages people with the art of storytelling, the beauty of design, the power of words. Yet its dangers are the same as the marketplace of old: it is full of idols. And the opportunities it provides are no different either: it is where the crowds are gathered to share with one another.
As so much of our lives has turned digital during the COVID pandemic the market-place is busier than it ever has been. This new video resource is a tool to use to reach into that mission field. It is a conversation starter, sharing the one true story of life that finds its focus on the person and work of Jesus.
There is no better news to make known. No better story to show that we live in. And now, in the digital market-place of the COVID era, no better message of hope to share.
By Alastair Gledhill