Acts 19 has been killing me lately. The following story takes place in Acts 19:23-41, and reveals how ‘the Way’ was influencing the city of Ephesus. So, for the next few posts, let’s embark on what it looks like to be a part of ‘the Way.’
Ephesus was a booming, vibrant, emerging city with several privileged and esteemed personalities. One of the most influential of these personalities was Demetrius, the CEO of a local blacksmith co-op. Demetrius’ company employed several skilled craftsmen, which means that this business provided a powerful reputation, a comfortable living, and I’m assuming, a more than a few fringe benefits. The entrepreneur leveraged his entire business on the production of quality material for the city’s largest attraction: the temple of the goddess Artimus. And business was good…
Until the Way began to emerge.
It seems that there was this grassroots movement which was infiltrating every fiber of the city’s existence, reputation, and structure. This movement was, of course, comprised of followers and believers of Jesus Christ, who were living their faith so passionately and boldly that their reputation began to be defined by their lifestyle. The Way was compromising and redefining everything.
Including Demetrius’ livelihood. Ever the market analyst, Demetrius’ assembled his skilled tradesmen together, a reactionary move to thwart the progress of the Way. It appears that when your business is the mass production of silver goddesses and her ornaments, it’s not good for business when there is a large following proclaiming that these relics are simply not what they claim to be. So in chapter 19 (vs23) of the book of Acts we come across this all-telling phrase: “Serious trouble developed in Ephesus concerning the Way.”
Side note to the story: I can’t help but be amazed that a powerful and prestigious business leader was concerned about a church. The Way was building momentum, and the city’s landscape was beginning to reflect that. The Way had undeniably come to town and set up shop.
Which makes me question: Are our churches really affecting our communities? We yell pretty loud, give some pretty convincing arguments, and picket a whole bunch of things. We knock on some doors, invite to VBS, and have a student ministry. But is the dynamic of our community and city changing because we’re gaining momentum and leveraging influence?
We’ve become really good at telling people what not to be, but are we teaching people who they are in Christ? Shouldn’t our churches should be causing radical grassroots uprising in our communities…not through picket lines, abrasive church signs, boycotts, or judgmental stances but rather through our radical pursuit of compassion, justice, and grace. Shouldn’t businesses, leaders, and dynamics that profit from the misguidance, misfortune, and mistreatment of fellow humans feel threatened by our message, lifestyle, and influence? The way of Jesus demands that “business as usual” not be “business as usual.”
Isn’t it true that we are often more concerned with our churches attendance and budget than we are with influencing our culture with this new, redefined way of living? Isn’t it sad that most of our churches teach a removal from culture rather than a leveraging of culture? Isn’t it humiliating that we hold up our traditions at the cost of reaching the next generations with the gospel of Jesus Christ? Isn’t it ridiculous that the church has become defined by our indifference? And doesn’t it suck that we don’t seem to really care all that much?
Maybe our churches are as in as much need for the Way as our culture is.
I digress. Back to Ephesus…