Influence always goes farther when we put into others what God has placed in us. As I wrap up my class on Acts and seeing God move in our life with power and miracles, I spent some time looking at Paul in Ephesus. Acts 19 brings a pivotal change to Paul’s ministry as Luke nears the end of his narrative with Paul. After Ephesus, Paul returns to Jerusalem for the final time before going before Caesar in Rome. Church tradition says that Paul later went to Spain before being arrested a second time and executed.
However, Luke spends a large portion of his story on what Paul did in Ephesus. If we focus on what Luke shares in the first 12 verses, we can get a glimpse as to why Luke wants us to see what Paul did in this influential city. I see so many parallels with Ephesus and Bangkok. Both are major trade cities, capital cities for their region. Both have a strong religious culture with famous temples. Maybe the temple of Artemis being one of the 7 wonders of the Ancient world distinguishes itself from other magnificent temples in Bangkok, like the Grand Palace with the Emerald Buddha.
I found four principles to ministry in this section that should be a part of what we do today. Again before any of the smaller principles, we see again and gain the passion after God that marked Paul and the other apostles. They all sought God and all that He had for them. They included those with them in a passionate pursuit of what God would do in their community. When God moved, they built a structure around that particular move of God. Today, we do too much of the opposite. We either come up with a grand plan or seek God to fulfill our plan, or we see God move in another place and hope to replicate that in our context by duplicating the same structure and organization that other people used. What Paul and his followers did much like those waiting in the upper room were wait for God to move and allow God to show them how to build the structure.
In Ephesus, Paul found about 12 people who believed in God, and from that small beginning impacted the entire region on the edge of the Roman Empire, Asia Minor. Here are four principles I see in Paul’s ministry in Ephesus.
1. The baptism of the Holy Spirit. Paul sees the filling of the Holy Spirit as essential for the Christian, not for salvation but for life in this world. He found this small group of believers who had yet to hear of the Holy Spirit, so before anything else, he taught them about the Holy Spirit and laid his hands on them for the infilling power of the Holy Spirit. Paul knew that if impact were to happen, they would need every tool in the belt.
2. Power Evangelism: Maybe in the west, we don’t necessarily need this, but in other cultures where people recognize the powers of the spiritual world, we need to confront those powers with the power of God. We see Paul used by God for extraordinary miracles, so much so that even the aprons he wore in his tent-making were taken to the sick to heal them and cast out demons. In cultures familiar with the spiritual realm, they need to see God encounter their world with power and reality. When they saw that this was not just another magical formula, but a true relationship and interaction with the almighty God of heaven and earth, people turned to God in droves.
3. Intense training: When the synagogue became inhospitable to Paul he moved to the Hall of Tyrannus, a lecture hall in the city to hold daily meetings. Paul used this hall to disciple many over the 2 ½ years he ministered in Ephesus. Basically, Paul started the first Bible College. I wonder if he knew his time was drawing to a close and looked for a way to multiply himself through the training of many young leaders. He rented out this facility during the midday, about 11 am-4 pm while most people would have taken their daily siesta. Paul and his companions worked in the early morning and forgoing their siesta in the hottest times of the day, they taught and taught. The people hungered for what Paul gave them so much that they came and listened to him when most would be napping. I am reminded of Aimee Semple-McPherson, who never wanted to start a church. She traveled the United States and Canada as an evangelist and saw God heal people with extraordinary miracles. The newspapers always showed the miraculous and amazing reports of her ministry in the 1920’s as she campaigned for God from town-to-town. So many people wanted to come and learn from her that she decided to begin a church and a Bible School, a school to train ministers and release them to start more churches, Life Pacific College.
4. Finally, Paul released and empowered his disciples. Paul knew God wanted to break into every community. He trained and equipped the best people and sent them out. From this training ground, Paul started churches throughout the area by sending out the best of his people to places like Colossae and Laodicea, among others.
Paul turned an entire region onto God through simple but powerful efforts to release God’s power in the lives of the people and unleash these people once they received adequate training. How can we revolutionize a city?