Immediately before Paul was baptized, Ananias shared with him God’s destiny for his life, “The God of our fathers
has chosen you to know His will… You will be His witness to ALL MEN of what you have seen and heard.” (Acts 22:14-15) At the end of his life, Paul was so grateful to God that He had enabled Paul to fulfill this destiny. Just a short time before his execution in early 67 AD, Paul writes, “The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and ALL GENTILES might hear it.” (2 Timothy 4:17) Clearly, Paul believed that the world was evangelized during his lifetime – ONE GENERATION!
Sadly, many have derided the vision – the evangelization of the nations in THIS generation. One prominent false teacher in our former fellowship has simply called it “impossible.” Another stated in the closing sermon of their 2005 Leadership Conference, “I see no plan or strategy in the Bible for the evangelization of the world in a generation.” Disciples have been led astray by these faithless proclamations, because they teach an “easier path” to Heaven, as if there is one. (2 Timothy 4:3-4) Abandoned is the call to go anywhere, do anything, and give up everything for Jesus, His church, and His mission. Without the goal of Jesus’ dream – “Go and make disciples of ALL NATIONS and baptize them” – disciples become greedy, worldly, lazy and apathetic. Collectively, they evolve into denominational community churches that are concerned only about their own well-being. Of these wandering sheep, the proverb is true, “Without vision the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18 KJV)
What does it mean “to evangelize the nations?” It simply means that everyone has heard of Jesus and His church. It does not mean that everyone has become a Christian, or even that everyone has gone through the First Principles Study Series! When Paul rejoices that “this is the gospel that has been proclaimed to EVERY CREATURE UNDER HEAVEN,” he does not mean through the preaching of disciples only, but largely through the negative proclamation of persecutors.
Jesus alludes to this as He shares with the apostles, “You will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death and you will be hated by ALL NATIONS because of me… And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the WHOLE WORLD as a testimony to ALL NATIONS, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:9-14) Most scholars agree, “the end” of which Jesus speaks is the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Therefore, Jesus prophesies – and all His prophesies come true – that “ALL NATIONS” will hate the apostles and be evangelized by 70 AD, the Apostles’ generation!
Since we believe that the known world was evangelized in ONE GENERATION, and that Paul was commissioned by God at his baptism to lead this charge to get the message to ALL MEN – which he said he did – then what strategies did Paul employ to accomplish this “impossible” task?
1. PRAYER – “I urge then that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for EVERYONE – for kings and all those in authority… This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants ALL MEN to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for ALL MEN… and for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle.” (1Timothy 2:1-7) Paul admonished the early Christians to pray for their political leaders, because war – conflict between political leaders – and laws that prohibit the free proclamation of the Word could cripple or even stop the spread of the gospel. Also, prayer moves God to lead us to open people. (Colossians 4:3)
2. SELECTION OF SOLD-OUT MISSION TEAMS – On the first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas ask John Mark to accompany them. (Acts 12:25) Sadly, John Mark deserted them when the journey became too difficult for him. (Acts 13:13) Perhaps from this incident, Paul learned that one could not sentimentally choose a mission team, as John Mark was Barnabas’ cousin. (Colossians 4:10) Therefore, for the second missionary journey, Paul selected Silas, a prophet (Acts 15:32), and Timothy, of whom the brothers in two churches “spoke well of.” (Acts 16:2)
3. THE CITY EVANGELIZES THE SURROUNDING REGION – On the first missionary journey, Paul preached in Pisidian Antioch, the largest city in that area. Then, “the Word of the Lord spread through the whole region.” (Acts 13:49) This principle is also seen in the third missionary travels in Paul’s ministry in Ephesus – called in that day, “The first and greatest Metropolis of Asia.” In just two years “all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the Word of the Lord.” (Acts 19:10)
4. TARGET THE MAJOR CITIES – Having understood that the natural influence of a city will evangelize the entire geographic region of its influence, Paul – commanded in a dream to evangelize Macedonia – passed through the small seaport of Neapolis without preaching, and traveled nine miles to “Philippi… the leading city of that district in Macedonia.” (Acts 16:12) Next, Paul walked 100 miles as he passed by the smaller cities of Amphipolis and Apollonia to preach in Thessalonica. Thessalonica was the seat of the Roman governor, capital of the province of Macedonia, and Macedonia’s largest city. (Strabo) Later, Paul went to Athens – the intellectual capital of the world; Corinth – the capital of the Roman province of Achaia; and Ephesus – the leading city of the most prosperous province of the Roman Empire, as well as the Empire’s fourth largest city behind Rome, Alexandria (Egypt), and Antioch (Syria). By the end of the third missionary journey, Paul strategized going to Rome (Acts 19:21) – the city that influenced the entire known world. Interestingly, after preaching while jailed in Rome for two years, Paul wrote in about 61 AD, “This is the gospel that has been proclaimed to EVERY CREATURE UNDER HEAVEN.”
5. TARGET OPINION LEADERS – On the first missionary journey on the island of Cyprus, Paul converted the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. During his second missionary trip in Philippi, he converted Lydia, a high-powered business woman, who then converted her family. (Acts 16:14) Paul also baptized the “Jail Superintendent” and his family. (Acts 16:33) In both Thessalonica and Berea many “prominent women and many Greek men” were converted. (Acts 17:4, 12)
In Athens, Paul baptized “Dionysius, a member of the [prestigious] Areopagus.” (Acts 17:34) (The Christian historian Eusebius wrote in 170 AD that Dionysius became the “first bishop of Athens.”) In Corinth, Paul baptized “Crispus, the synagogue ruler and his entire household” (Acts 18:8), as well as Crispus’ replacement as synagogue ruler, the persecutor – Sosthenes. (Acts 18:17) Later Sosthenes becomes a preacher and helps Paul write the letter of 1 Corinthians! (1 Corinthians 1:1)
Also at Paul’s conversion, Paul was told that he was God’s “chosen instrument to carry His name before the Gentiles and their kings.” (Acts 9:15) The Holy Spirit allowed Paul to be arrested, and through a series of trials, Paul preached to governors – Felix and Festus (Acts 24-25), as well as kings – King Agrippa (Acts 25) and because of his appeal, perhaps even Caesar himself – the man who influenced the entire known world! (Acts 25:12) The conversion of opinion leaders gave the early church talented and charismatic disciples that through the Spirit would not only multiply disciples, but multiply churches!
6. TARGET HEADS OF FAMILIES – As mentioned above, when the leader of the family was baptized, as with Crispus, his entire household – wife, children and servants – was converted as well.
7. TARGET THE CAMPUS – In Ephesus, “Paul took the disciples with him and had daily discussions in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.” (Acts 19:9) Once more, Paul was trying to get to opinion leaders that would take the message back to their home towns and home nations. College students are given to ideas and causes. Energetic, idealistic and ambitious, they are unencumbered by family duties, financial responsibilities and past personal failures. Therefore, it should not surprise us that in two years time as Paul converts and trains these dynamic souls, “all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the Word of the Lord.” Most likely, it is during this time that the other “six churches of Asia” are planted! (Revelation 1:4) If we are to evangelize the nations, campus ministry should be one of our top priorities to focus our resources of leadership, money and most precious of all – time. For from the campuses will come future evangelists, elders, deacons and women leaders. These seven strategies are presently being applied in all of the congregations in the SoldOut Movement. In the States, we have dynamic discipling ministries in America’s four most influential cities – New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and DC. All of our Stateside efforts – including Charlotte, Eugene, Hilo, Honolulu, Orlando, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego and Syracuse – are all working together to provide leadership and money for the forceful advancement of the movement, especially in building, supporting and sending out mission teams. Though the SoldOut Movement is only five years old, the evangelization of America is well under way.
Our world differs from Paul’s in one significant aspect; there is not “one Rome,” but perhaps 10 to 14 around the world. Therefore, we set before all the disciples in God’s new movement, the Crown of Thorns Project which targets the modern-day “Romes” – Cairo, Chennai, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, London, Manila, Mexico City, Moscow, Paris, Santiago, Sao Paulo and Sydney. Though discipling churches have been planted in London, Santiago and Sao Paulo, prayerfully, dynamic churches with our same “life and doctrine” will also be established in the remaining nine cities in the next four years or so! In turn, these churches will influence all the nations around them – all 195 nations of the world! Then we will be able to “boast in the Lord” like our brother Paul, “ALL OVER THE WORLD this gospel is bearing fruit and growing.” (Colossians 1:6)
City of Angels Church, let us “always give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because we know that our labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) Nike, Coca-Cola and Britney Spears have evangelized the world in our day. That’s not to say that everyone wears Nike shoes, or drinks Coke or listens to Britney Spears – it simply means, they have heard about these entities. Therefore, as the people of God who are empowered by His Spirit, can we not do the “impossible” and evangelize the nations in THIS GENERATION? I believe we can. I believe we must. And I believe we will. And to God be all the glory!