A Walk Through Acts 18
I enjoy sitting with my parents and listening to their stories from years bone by. Now that I am in my last years as a pentagenarian, Mom and Dad have to go back to the first fourth of their life to uncover yesteryears untouched by the detritus of my own existence. As I listen raptly and probe for more information, I feel like an archeologist peeling back the layers to a strange time.
Not only did Dad grow up without electricity, running water, or a second room in his school house, they did not travel… at all. As I set on my couch in Texas and reflect on the years gone by, I realize how different my life has been from some of my ancestors just a few generations ago. Our family migration from southern Illinois to upstate New York set the trajectory for my whole life in so many ways. My life highlight reel also includes a wonderful with Dad to Taiwan.
As a child, however, Dad only read about strange places like the Florida Everglades. I guess Dad and his two siblings pestered my grandfather enough that he finally acquiesced. Grandad loaded his excited children into the family sedan and headed south… all the way to the Arkansas boarder. Perhaps the 45-mile trip took an hour. After crossing the border, he immediately turned around and told them to not ask to travel again. Evidently Grandpa Littles’ bucket list was a bit limited when it came to travel. I do not say that with criticism; much of my grandfather’s life revolved around surviving and supporting those he loved. Travel required a purpose.
This year I got to do ministry travel from Vancouver, British Columbia to Indonesia. Past trips have taken me as far south as Buenos Aires, Argentina, north to Dawson City, Yukon, and East to Fukuoa, Japan. Sherri and I have traveled more this past year than we have ever traveled before. Sometimes my bucket list is to stay home for two or three weeks and enjoy the view out my back window.
Now our whole world seems to travel. Cities of any size have various ethnic enclaves. Public transportation and shopping centers tickle the ears with “foreign” languages and the nose with spices from distant lands. In the olden days, you had to set in someone’s living room to watch the slides from the Mt Rushmore vacation or their 8 mm silent movies of the beach. Now we invite everyone to tell their stories in our own living rooms through Facebook and Instagram.
Humanity now floats around the globe. Sometimes the float becomes a destructive tsunami, but we are always on the move.
Reading Acts 18 reminds me that my church family carries the migratory DNA. It started with a refugee from Ur, threads through Egypt on its way to Palestine where The Illegal Alien was born in a barn. The early church continued this migration lifestyle. The chapter moves around from places like Alexandria, Egypt, to Rome, Corinth, and Ephesus. Apollos doubtlessly traveled with a trunk of scrolls and journals accounting for his time with John Baptist. Aquilla and his wife Priscilla would certainly not make it through TSA checkpoints with all of their tent making equipment. Paul probably had both scrolls and tools of the trade in his go bag.
The Spirit moved along with the people.
In some places they experienced rejection. When that happened they shook the dust from their garments and moved on to another audience.
Sometimes the audience grew offended and took them to court. While there the disciples witnessed a brutal hate crime as Sosthenes bled before the disinterested eye of the judge.
Travels happened with the simple clause, “If God wills.” At times the Lord lavishly loved His traveling disciples by comforting them with visions. “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in the city who are my people.” At times the disciples disappointed new believers as they traveled to the next city with the promise to return if the Lord willed it to be so. They stayed from a matter of days to a year and a half.
The scenery and foods may have changed, but one thing never changed. God sent them to make disciples in the cities.
Pentecost thrives in urban spaces. Spaces of commerce, manufacturing, and convergence of cultures provide the city scape of a new work of the Spirit. Spaces of government, banking, intellectual pursuits, and urban poor cry out for Pentecostal witness. Cities always experience change. Urban change provides the seedbed for the harvest.
Jesus still sends small business people like Paul, Pricilla and Aquilla to the cities. He still sends teachers like Apollos. He still sends visions to reduce the fear and open the eyes to see much people. Unless the church hears the beckoning of the city over the anxiety of her own heart, she will not know the Lord’s will. Though cobblestone streets have given way to concrete veins to carry the masses, God’s heartbeat can still be heard the loudest in the cities.
I think my grandfather and father would understand this kind of travel, a travel with a goal in mind. The Lord’s will be done in confined spaces where stacks of people reach to the heavens.
The cities call me to pray.
You had a voice calling in the wilderness before You came the first time. Before You come the second time, I hear the voices calling from the cities. Like farmers plow their fields with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, You have fertilized the world’s cities with migrating populations in search of something. You have prepared the soil.
Do You still give the burden of unreached cities like You did to Paul and Silas? Is it still possible for men and women to hear urban cries as my mother and father did? The cities have greater needs today than ever before; surely You have a church well prepared for the season of harvest.
Lord, would You give us visions and dreams again? Surely You have even more people in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio than know Your name today. Chicago, LA, Seattle, DC, Miami, New York, Denver, and Phenix need thousands of more witnesses. Mexico City, London, Paris, Johannesburg, Moscow, Cairo, Mumbai, Tokyo, and Beijing all await the healing wave of missionaries You raise up in this last hour.
I am thankful for the missionaries who have gone before with the support of mission minded churches, but the cites need more! Do you still have any small businessmen and women who can go? Perhaps some who get pushed out of one city with much confusion only to learn this was part of Your will? Do You have any social workers, engineers, educators, urban planners, architects, accountants, web designers, longshoremen, cooks and office cleaners that You could send to the cities? Can You gift them to love the city when they have receptive ears as well as when they experience hate crimes?
I weep because You show me the cities, and I do not know how to pray prayers that big. I weep because I am afraid we are not ready for the urban Pentecost You have planned for the world.
I weep, but I also hope. Just as the winds blow with the changing season outside my window today, Your Spirit blows over the face of the world’s cities. Send us. Send me.
Oh Lord! Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done … in the cities.
In Jesus’ Name