Luke is not merely telling a story but proclaiming a message in the book of Acts. What is that message? Clearly, it is centered on the evangelistic mandate of 1:8 and the journey of the Gospel and its “gospellers” from Jerusalem (ch 1) to Rome (ch 28), from the centre of Judaism to the centre of the secular world.
Thus, if Luke’s prime directive is to communicate the message of salvation, how does he characterize evangelism –its methodology? The text is explicit: Salvation can be found in no one other than Jesus (4:12); salvation is offered to everyone–the Spirit of God is poured out on “all flesh” (2:17); and salvation requires a response to Christ of repentance/ faith (2:38). And how is that message conveyed? Luke demonstrates that God’s people (and indeed God himself) will seek and will go to the people –all people everywhere. The driving impulse of Acts is summed up in the bumper sticker: “What is it about GO that you don’t understand?”
This is apparent: Luke begins his narrative with the ascension where the apostles are found gazing somewhat vacantly upwards by “two men dressed in white,” who rebuke their fixed attention on the empty skies, indicating that their present mission is to proclaim this Saviour to the world, to go to the world rather than to expect the world to come to them. Such is the essence of the entire book: an outward-moving evangelism that results in the growth of the kingdom.
Let’s begin by sketching something the narrative from Acts 9 –Paul’s story- to paint a broad picture of Luke’s understanding of evangelism. The reason for this is that in Acts (as in Paul’s letters) there are some key principles of evangelism that –despite a huge library of study- remain somewhat understated. Here’s a few key concepts:
1. We are traveling together: Paul’s missionary group embodies fellowship.
2. The diversity of the group exemplifies the body of Christ: its diversity of gifting and its fundamental mutuality. Our fellowship is an intrinsic part of our message.
3. We are crossing cultural frontiers: we are not mono-cultural or stuck in one way of doing things. Kingdom development is organic and relationship is more important than doctrine…. Or rather, relationship IS the doctrine.
4. By this practice, and through this mutual love, we are building bridges into the community where we serve.
Can you accept these as some of the concepts in LUke’s mind?