You Got This: An Encouragement for Those in Client Care

As a client care professional, there’s much about the craft left to be discovered and desired.

While I love what I do, where I work, and the people I work with, the challenges of the role have sparked a unique brand of curiosity. 

For instance…

Why do many value customer service but underrate it as a skill? Why is the ability compartmentalized outside expertise in select arenas? Perhaps more egregiously, why is administration, hospitality, and helps viewed as low men on the spiritual gift totem pole?

Is it because we assume anyone can demonstrate them? Or because we think client care is less discipline than choice?

If so, I submit we reorient our perspective and adjust our approach on how we integrate client care specialists into our business models. Granted, I understand the bias potential; however, as one who went from avoiding customer service applications to relishing the call in recent years, there are scriptural confirmations as to why client care is essential in today’s marketplace. As such, I propose organizations and employees embrace the following five passages in their commitment to client service.

1 Corinthians 12:18 (AMP) – “But now [as things really are], God has placed and arranged the parts in the body, each one of them, just as He willed and saw fit [with the best balance of function].” 

For client success managers, the part can feel like a mixed bag. On one hand, they’re the face of the relationship experience; on the other, they can be perceived as dispensable simply on title alone. Yet, while the lack of ‘specialist’ tag can be a disadvantage, the opportunity is still laced with silver linings. For instance, not only can a customer service leader enhance efficiency across multiple processes and procedures but reflect the existential truth concerning our vocational purpose: 

We are all diverse in function, co-equal in value.

As Paul declares, God is intentional and strategic with what He assigns. Although hierarchical structures and parameters for governance are essential, they also do not define our contributions, attitude, and team value. By proxy, client care specialists, being the on-call troubleshooters they are, can take pride knowing their adaptability and problem-solving prowess can improve the balance of corporate load and execution.

Romans 12:3-5 (AMP) – “For by the grace [of God] given to me I say to everyone of you not to think more highly of himself [and of his importance and ability] than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has apportioned to each a degree of faith [and a purpose designed for service]. For just as in one [physical] body we have many parts, and these parts do not all have the same function or special use, so we, who are many, are [nevertheless just] one body in Christ, and individually [we are] parts one of another [mutually dependent on each other].”

Similar to 1 Corinthians 12:18, Paul applies a physical body analogy to emphasize why our perception of value and function should be rooted in holy dependence. Unlike worldly slants defining the purpose of our ability as prosperity, in God’s eyes, our gifts were intended and are continually renewed for interdependent service; hence, God’s heart for relationship. For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son and apportioned opportunities for faith, hope, and character to mature. Accordingly, may we appreciate the frontline administrators who exemplify work not only as a testament to God’s love but His desire to entrust us as faithful stewards of what He’s provided.

Philippians 2:2-3 (AMP) – “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, having the same love [toward one another], knit together in spirit, intent on one purpose [and living a life that reflects your faith and spreads the gospel—the good news regarding salvation through faith in Christ]. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit [through factional motives, or strife], but with [an attitude of] humility [being neither arrogant nor self-righteous], regard others as more important than yourselves.”

On a pragmatic level, this verse is a beautiful charge to client care specialists given its versatile initiative. While any position can achieve this calling, the level of opportunity for customer service managers to make joy complete is high in most cases. Consequently, anyone who serves as a relationship manager and fosters community through administration should embrace their wiring to influence through compassionate collaboration. Whatever we say, whatever we do, may we coat it in modesty and the good news we carry inside us. May our attitude represent our faith and our faith the believe that through Christ we can inspire humility and unity through timely words, constructive insight, even prophetic encouragement.

1 Peter 4:10 (AMP) – “Just as each one of you has received a special gift [a spiritual talent, an ability graciously given by God], employ it in serving one another as [is appropriate for] good stewards of God’s multi-faceted grace [faithfully using the diverse, varied gifts and abilities granted to Christians by God’s unmerited favor].”

A sum of 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12, 1 Peter 4 reiterates the original design of God’s delegation. More specifically, while gifts and quantity of talents may vary, ultimately, we’re all meant to give pleasure to God as we employ them in meekness. While selfless service should be an aim of any organization, it should also recognize favor through stewardship. Remember to be a good steward by faith is to believe in God  and the infallibility of His assignments. As we worship through work with confidence, as we minister as marketplace leaders aware of God’s transcendent grace, let’s not forget our abilities are down payments of God’s continual help and sovereignty. 

Hebrews 10:24-25 (AMP) – “…and let us consider [thoughtfully] how we may encourage one another to love and to do good deeds, not forsaking our meeting together [as believers for worship and instruction], as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more [faithfully] as you see the day [of Christ’s return] approaching.”

I love how ‘spur’, as seen in other translations, is spelled out in the AMP. Essentially, to spur one another in love is to consider how we’re to encourage our clients to do good. While moments of extemporaneous inspiration are inevitable, the focus of client care should always be to ignite courage and strength of purpose. Practically speaking, this could manifest many ways; however, as an example, consider how client care specialists can affect corporate synergy and voice from creating motivational system alerts/portal template language to incorporating client perspective into platform design. Whatever system you engage, make sure to sustain the intention of positive service with the intentionality of thoughtful encouragement.

Selah.

For those who’ve made it this far, stay tuned next time when I’ll break down another five-pack of client care Scriptures. Until then, I commend you, my fellow swiss-army knives and jack-of-all trades. You may not feel treasured or sense the evidence of appreciation but remember the God you ultimately work for is crazy over you and how He’s wired and appointed your giftings for such a time as this. Therefore, stay strong and courageous and go in peace for your journey has the Lord’s approval. 

~ Cameron

The Road Less Traveled By: A SOAP Study on John 4

Written 2/15/14; revised 6/1/20

Back when I was a young buck studying the Word, I had a bad habit of downplaying settings. Geography, time, historical backdrops…I figured by skimming the peripherals, I’d discern the passage more quickly without distraction.

However, as I now know, when we consider the Scriptures, we find every word, pronoun, and article carrying strategic purpose and placement.

Take John 4 for instance…

In this chapter, not only do we find Jesus ministering to a woman at a well but [literally] going the extra yard in finding her.

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Yet, before the encounter takes place, we’re given important context retroactive to John 3:22-23:

After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized.” 

This in mind, let’s flash-forward to John 4:1-5:

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.”

In these two passages, we’re given three regions as backstory to John 4: Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. With Galilee and Samaria, we’re given specifics; with Judea, the reference is less clear. Still, we have enough detail to discern the relationship between the communities.

Note the maps below as they will come in handy in a minute…

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Going back to v. 2, we find Jesus leaving Judea for Galilee from a somewhat debatable departure point. Assuming Jesus started where John was baptizing, we can deduce Sychar not only as a sensible midpoint but a contrast to how Jews traveled given the cultural climate between them and the Samaritans (see black/white graphic above). While traveling through Sychar made sense in terms of mileage, it’s only fair to wonder:

Why Jesus did go there in the first place?

To answer this, we’ll need to examine two more components…

  1. Relational dynamics

  2. The timeline

Relational Dynamics: Back in Jesus’ time,  it was culturally unacceptable for a Jew to enter a Samaritan town. As we see in the Good Samaritan parable, Samaritans were widely considered half-breeds (half-Gentile, half-Jew). If a Jew was departing Jerusalem on route to Galilee, he likely would have traveled east of the Jordan to avert Samaria (a difference of a marathon give or take); however, in Jesus’ case, he took the road less traveled by for two reasons:

1) To shatter the mold of social norms through his message of unity.

2) To share the Good News and preview the Spirit as part of an emerging worship culture (more on this in a future post).

The Timeline: Additionally, we must consider the timing of this passage as v. 6 indicates:

 “Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.”

Again, it’s worth wondering why John would emphasize a topical detail like the “sixth hour”. At first glance, one would think the “sixth hour” to be 6:00 am; however, according to the Jewish clock, the “sixth hour” would have, in fact, been 12:00 pm. Like the location, the ramifications of this observation is significant. If Jesus arrived at noon, then he would have appeared during ‘peak heat’ – a time when many were indoors. With well activity peaking during dawn hours, had Jesus wanted to preach, he would have needed to arrive in the morning or evening. Accordingly, one must wonder: Did Jesus arrive at random or did he time his journey to Sychar? 

In short, ‘yes’, Jesus had every intention of meeting the woman exactly when he did; however, the longer answer integrates the ‘why‘, specifically why Jesus came to inspire this particular woman at this particular time in light of her history (v. 16-19).

Based on these verses, I submit the ‘why‘ is as follows…

Jesus came to change a woman’s life through the revelation of his divinity so she could inspire a town through the revelation of his compassion.

As the Spoken Word attests, Christ so loved this woman at the well, he couldn’t help but transform her from an ostracized outcast to a victorious vessel. From the very beginning, this woman had been tapped to speak life into a cultural revolution. And now here she was – once an adulteress, now a mouthpiece with testimony and a message to share. If that’s not the Kingdom, I don’t know what is.

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Bottom line 1: When we consider Christ’s intentionality, his strategy to free this woman from bondage and ignite her hope through his identity, how can we not get excited? Like Jesus, we should want to restore life amidst the broken hearts and dreams we encounter. We should want to ignite change in those who doubt their worth. But above all, we should want to accept the call to lead others to a greater understanding of who God is. Because at the end of the day, God’s love is contagious and captures why we’re here: To encourage the discouraged, to be salt and light, to be unity in community, and stir love as the root of faith.

As the story concludes, the woman accepts Christ, his prophetic declaration (v. 21-24), and fearlessly saves many Samaritans as a result:

“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.‘ After the two days he departed for Galilee.” ~ John 4:39-43 (ESV)

Not bad for an ex-social leper who wasted years trying to find her identity in relationships and social status.

Bottom line 2: Scenic and demographic details are valuable in studying the ministry of Christ. As this chapter reminds us, God can use the lowliest of men to sow the highest good for His glory and in bringing communities closer to Jesus. As for being that catalyst of change in your arenas of influence/expertise, dare to seek God like no one else so you can live intentionally like no one else. By believing God has established your steps, you can trust him to help you get to where you need to be even if it’s mean a few extra minutes or miles along the way.

Selah.

Looking ahead, I will look to build upon this post by examining the worship culture aspect of John 4. I’ll also break down what the ‘radical middle’ (i.e. living in Spirit and in Truth) looks like as present-day Kingdom agents in the marketplace.

‘Til then, you got this.

~ Cameron

Cover photo creds: Million-Wallspaper.com

 

Wading for God: A SOAP Study on Romans 15:1-7

Note: Usually I separate the observations and applications when writing these SOAP Bible studies; however, I believe the following observations are better attached to their respective applications in light of the content. While normally I  flesh out marketplace implications, due to word count, I’m allowing the pod above (and future pods) to cover this piece.

Scripture: Romans 15:1-7 (MSG)

Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, ‘How can I help?’ That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. “I took on the troubles of the troubled,” is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!

Observations/Applications:

1. I like how the Message captures Paul’s heart in v. 1:Strength is for service, not status.” For one thing, it quickly defines what strength is designed for while contrasting it to the contrary. I might even add ‘skill’ to the ‘not list’ given our culture’s way of synonymizing strength to societal contributions. Still, it’s imperative we grasp what Paul is stating: We are strong in Christ meaning we’re strong in faith and in our conviction to persevere in weakness. Internally, this can mean accepting God’s grace without debate; externally, this can mean patiently enduring with shortcomings outside of our control. Regardless of how this looks, we must be thorough in translating faith to action since many practice truth in theory without it correlating to tangible care. For instance, some forgive without saying the words while others are easily content being willing to help without actually helping. Perhaps this is why in v. 2, Paul is straight-up straightforward: “Let each one of us [make it a practice to] please his neighbor for his good, to build him up spiritually.”

2. If there’s one main concern I have about the church (and the Christians in them), it’s how we have programs to reach people, yet avoid people’s troubles in fear of not being able to handle them. One could say we want to win souls for the Kingdom without having to address their warts and worries along the way.

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Yet, as Paul emphatically states, in v. 3, “That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out.” Put another way, He took on the troubles of the troubled and that in a nutshell is how we should approach the communal aspect of our evangelism and discipleship.

Galatians 6:1-3 (MSG) captures this beautifully:

Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.”

3. The dance between the Message and Amplified translations in v. 4 is fascinating:

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.

Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next.”

For starters, we don’t just endure through the Word; we encourage through it. Likewise, we don’t just read the Word to stay alert; we study the Word to inspire diligence and vigilance. After all, for counsel to exist, there must be a community of ‘two or more’ gathered (Matthew 18:20) where confidence and trust can be shared maturing in God’s promises. Furthermore, while it’s important to be ready for the ‘next’, we can’t get there if we’re not loving in the now with apparent hope. This is why trust isn’t an individual exercise, but a corporate pursuit. To be on mission with Christ is to co-mission with each other. All the more reason we should embrace weakness as our endurance, encouragement, and counsel strengthen and builds up the body.

4. Finally, in v. 5-7, we see the purpose of endurance and encouragement captured in one word: Harmony. To have harmony is to have unity. And like the early church in Acts, God desires these gifts to help us be of one mind and one heart…according to Christ Jesus. But how do we achieve this in a way the words resonate at our core? In short, Paul gives us a template in these verses:

May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as  Jesus gets along with us all…so reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory.” 

Again, it’s interesting to note how many facets of God’s nature can’t exist in a vacuum or isolation. Case and point: “glory” – the very last word of this passage reminding us why all of this matters. As for how we experience glory, many would say righteousness, walking the walk, living out the truth we declare and believe, etc. But honestly, this is more how we posture ourselves to glory. To encounter it, we must seek the Lord as we reach out and welcome one another to where He is. Doing this implies love and as we know from 1 Peter 4:8, love covers a multitude of sins and seeks the best for others. Accordingly, as we’re inviting people to glory one step at a time, let’s embrace weakness as pressing into Jesus regardless of our circumstances. If we’re actively pursuing freedom and healing from strongholds and helping others do the same, no question we’ll inspire Scripture to come alive in people.

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Prayer:

Lord, we thank you for your goodness, your grace, your capacity to redeem and restore. We thank you for the golden opportunities and divine appointments you’ve been setting up around the world in recent months. We declare our joy and satisfaction in your ways and purposes. But now, Lord, we ask you to forgive us for not taking our faith seriously, specifically in the areas of relying on your strength and for helping others as we see fit, not as you see fit. We say it is you, God, who makes us fit, who equips us for good works and establishes our steps for them to happen. I know in my case I have hidden behind the quarantine at times and avoided being available to lick wounds from past resentments. I admit there have been times I’ve prioritized my perception of healing, basing it in distance from people and the absence of personal errors and wrongdoings toward me. But I’m gripped, oh God, by how you pursue us regardless of the trouble we’re in. I’m amazed how you’ve orchestrated the Scriptures through the passage of time for our benefit. As such, we choose to wait for you as you wade in for us and choose to lean on you as the rock of ages who never forsakes us. Even though we may not see the evidence of maturity and growth in every place in our lives, we ask God you help us rely on your steady counsel as our source, our refuge, and our strength. We choose to make peace with our brothers and sisters, with those who disagree with your ways and who criticize without compassion. We choose to not be disheartened by the evidence of disunity. Instead, show us the way to harmony and maturity in dealing with those who are lost, whether by faith, in character or in their understanding of you. After all, at every point in our lives, we are lost without you one way or another. Why not be warm in our correspondences with one another as we humbly seek your heart, your strategies, and your invitations? Why not say ‘yes’ to your unfathomable joy as we hand out those invitations to those who really need them for such a time as this? Be with us as we go forth from this moment and this place. To yours be all the glory, forever and always. Amen.”

Selah.

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Cover photos creds: wallpapercrafter.com

 

 

 

Do You Elihu? (Part 1)

Before reading this post, I suggest you check out Pastor Paul LeBoutillier’s (Calvary Chapel – Ontario, Oregon) message on Job 32-42 for context. The clip below contains Pastor Paul’s commentary for Job 32 only…

 

Have you ever had to “get real” with a friend or colleague in distress? Perhaps you’ve been in a situation where saying what needed to be said felt like threading a needle…or a roundhouse kick to the trachea.

If so, rest assured: You’re not alone. We’ve all been there at one point or another.

Yet, while stirring a storm in tranquil seas is never fun, there’s something to be said about the willing word spoken at the perfect time, in the face of the opposite spirit.

‘Cause truth is: When verbal courage is expressed through perseverance, vulnerability, and fearless articulacy, it carries the power to inspire change.

Enter Elihu, the unsung hero in arguably the most underrated book in the Old Testament – Job.

For those unaware, the book details the life of Job, a righteous man who honors God despite immense suffering. Not only is Job the first poetic book in the Bible, but also the first to address themes of theodicy, the vindication of God’s justice in the light of humanity’s suffering. After losing his children, servants, wealth and health, Job’s wife and closest friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) tempt Job to curse God and die (Job 2:9); however, after multiple arguments between Job and his opponents concerning the source of his suffering (chapters 4-31), we finally find Elihu making his debut (32:6-22):

Then Elihu…burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God. He burned with anger also at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong. Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he. And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, he burned with anger.

And Elihu…said, “I am young in years, and you are aged; therefore I was timid and afraid to declare my opinion to you. I said, ‘Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom.’ But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right.

Therefore I say, ‘Listen to me; let me also declare my opinion.’ Behold, I waited for your words, I listened for your wise sayings, while you searched out what to say. I gave you my attention, and, behold, there was none among you who refuted Job or who answered his words. Beware lest you say, ‘We have found wisdom; God may vanquish him, not a man.’ He has not directed his words against me, and I will not answer him with your speeches. They are dismayed; they answer no more; they have not a word to say.

And shall I wait, because they do not speak, because they stand there and answer no more. I also will answer with my share; I also will declare my opinion. For I am full of words;  the spirit within me constrains me. Behold, my belly is like wine that has no vent; like new wineskins ready to burst. I must speak, that I may find relief; I must open my lips and answer. I will not show partiality to any man or use flattery toward any person. For I do not know how to flatter, else my Maker would soon take me away.”

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I mean….you talk about a ‘confrontation clinic’! Clearly, Elihu’s charge is one of the most comprehensive and honest critiques in all of Scripture…and he’s just getting started.

Let’s break the next few chapters down…

  • In Job 33, Elihu calls out Job for saying he was without any sin and that God would not answer. Elihu says, “But I tell you, in this you are not right, for God is greater than any mortal.” (v. 12)
  • In Job 34, Elihu pivots off his rebuke to emphasize God’s justice: “It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice.” (v. 12)
  • In Job 35, Elihu again censures Job: “Indeed, God does not listen to [the arrogant person’s] empty plea; the Almighty pays no attention to it. How much less, then, will he listen, when you say that you do not see him, that your case is before him and you must wait for him.” (v. 13-14)
  • In Job 36, shifts to highlighting God’s greatness: “How great is God, beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out.” Elihu rightly points Job to God’s might, saying, “Listen to this, Job; / stop and consider God’s wonders.” (v. 26)
  • Finally, in Job 37, Elihu drops the mic (v. 23-24), emphatically bringing Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar to their figurative knees. As for Job, not only does he break his silence, but acknowledges Elihu’s criticism and in response, his own godly sorry (42:1-6). At last, Elihu’s persistence as a timely mouthpiece had come full circle.

Now, I bet you’re wondering what’s my point in bringing up Elihu, in summarizing these random passages.

To be fair, I could settle for…

  • Truth spoken in love leads to understanding/repentance.
  • Truth stands firm and perseveres through weakness.
  • God speaks to and through man for His highest good.
  • We are vessels of clay, anointed and appointed as His Godsend.

…however, what really grips me is God’s faithfulness to provide what we need to hear His voice and know He’s greater than our circumstances.

Yes, we can be correct in our theology and speak it coherently, but if it’s detached from God’s fatherheart of mercy, if it fails to lead one towards grace and discernment…can we honestly say we’re living as Kingdom influencers?

Granted, I know courage doesn’t necessarily imply perfect execution of proactive action. After all, the truth can get messy. But I guess this is why I love the story of Elihu so much.

For starters, Elihu doesn’t look for the platform; the platform finds him. He doesn’t speak when he feels like it but waits until ignorance and/or arrogance compels him (34:18-20). And before he even utters a word, he calibrates his thoughts to God’s perspective, allowing humility and confidence to saturate his speech. Perhaps this is why he refers to Job and his companions as “wise men” (34:2) in spite of their pride and valued his role as God’s embouchure more than his right to be right. Whatever the case, Elihu burned for God’s Word to be known (chapter 38), ultimately making a way for repentance to be realized.

May we all seize the opportunity to go and do likewise within our arenas of influence.

Selah.

Looking ahead, I’ll aim to write a sequel post on how we can be modern-day Elihu’s in today’s marketplace. For now, my encouragement to you is to consider how Elihu beheld the truth and his assignment to speak it. Then dare to apply it in your own life, regardless of whose (i.e. Job or Elihu) shoes you’re in, and live the question…

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‘Cause frankly whatever sole your soul is in, if you walk in humble obedience and the firm belief that God will use it to reflect His very best, then He’ll undoubtedly guide you whenever you have to speak the whole truth…and nothing but the truth.

You got this.

Cover creds: JW.org

Woke Faith: A SOAP Study on Acts 17:15-34

When I say ‘Acts’, what immediately comes to mind?

Early church? Paul’s conversion? Pentecost? Speaking in tongues?

Perhaps you’re like me in thinking ‘Holy Spirit’, ‘encounter’ or some variation. To be fair, all these are great answers; however, they also occur during the first half of Acts. And as vocationals, I believe it’s important we examine Paul’s ministry in the latter half to understand modern-day application as Kingdom influencers in the marketplace.

That said, after discussing the Capernaum centurion in our last SOAP study, let’s fast-forward to Acts 17 where we find a provoked Paul stirring in Athens.

Scripture: Acts 17:15-34

Observations:

Relative to prior pitstops, the setup to Paul’s Areopagus address is fascinating. After mixed receptions in Thessalonica and Berea, Paul lands in Athens, a densely paganized hub drenched in idolatry (v. 16). Weary from travel, it’s fair to say Paul could have withdrawn or charged the scene in an abuse of confidence; however, as v. 17 states, Paul not only turned the other cheek, but reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews, city officials, and…[wait for it]…marketplace leadersevery day with those who happened to be there“.

This tells me three things off the bat:

  1.  Paul knew his audience, intentionally seeking it out realizing where the influence was coming from.
  2.  Paul was persistent, persuasive, and patient in his dealings with people from the get-go. As we’ll later see, how else could Epicurean and Stoic philosophers go from “What does this babbler wish to say?” to “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?” in one verse?
  3. Paul understood the seeds of truth he needed to sow, but also the soil he needed to cultivate for those seeds to take root.

Continuing on through v. 28

Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

From here a couple more points stand out…

1. Paul, knowing his audience, not only adapted his language in preaching the Gospel but included secular references in verifying the Scriptures. Note how in v. 28 he cites Epimenides of Crete and Aratus’s poem “Phainomena” to prove the invalidity of temples gods.

I love how Cameron McAllister, a speaker with RZIM, captures this as “cultural apologetics”…

2. Paul, up until now, has not introduced the concept of repentance. This is because he was more concerned about connecting God’s love to creation than freedom from sin – which they lacked context for anyway.

3. Like today’s world, 1st century Athens valued diversity, connectedness, and were open-minded towards many philosophies (v. 21). This is likely why Paul prioritized a) singularity and relationship when explaining God’s absolute nature and b) centralization metaphors/analogies that made sense to them. In other words, Paul knew to capture the sovereignty of God, he had to first emphasize what they inherently knew about Him whether they recognized it or not.

CTA-Makes-Sense

4. As we find in v. 32-34, Paul saw few people converted in Athens on behalf of his presence; however, the lasting influence of his ministry is evident in that today the text of his speeches is still engraved on a bronze plaque at the ascent to the Areopagus.

Applications:

As Paul portrays, relating to the Athens of life is one of the most significant choices we can make as marketplace leaders. Like some of our working environments, Athens was a junkyard of idols, a toxic wasteland where intellect trumped truth. But amidst the funk, there were still people, blind as they were, who were open enough to listen – to give an open space as the Message translates. Thus, it could be said the greatest weakness of the Athenians was also their greatest strength given their misplaced devotion ultimately gave Paul the opportunity to testify.

As for us, there’s something to behold about this moment, especially as it pertains to our vocational environments. For one thing, I believe there are more people with receptible bandwidths in our midst than we think. Like Paul among the Athenians, we are often surrounded by colleagues, co-workers, and supervisors – many of them with a story, a set of ears, and a desire to be heard. Why then do we assume these people wouldn’t want to hear what we have to say? Is it because we’re afraid our vulnerability will not be received? Because we fear the truth will fall on deaf ears? Or are we so insecure, we evade judgment before it’s even cast? Not to downplay the discouragement Christian workers face operating in worldly systems of enterprise. I get how tough it can be when twenty seconds of insane courage become twenty minutes of painful rejection. I’m just sayin’ like Paul, we don’t have to resent the lost for being lost or the hurt for being hurt. Rather, we can sit down, invite them into our confident zones¹, and peacefully present the good news by which we live our lives.

Furthermore, I believe the power in our testimony is enhanced when we choose to speak the language of those we’re witnessing to. Remember everyone has skills and abilities, but very few know where they come from. As such, it’s imperative we acknowledge and affirm the areas God is manifesting through, whether or not they’re immediately recognized. After all, we’re all created by a master Creator with breath to take in the evidence of His presence. Hence, why it makes sense to incorporate the simple things we share in common into the unique ways we capture God’s love.

Selah.

Prayer:

“Lord, we thank you for being our source and our rock. We thank you for going before us to make a way when none seem possible. Day in and day out, you are our sovereign sustenance. What can we do but declare gratitude and victory in your name? But Lord, we also realize as vocationals, as marketplace leaders, as Kingdom influencers…we are not immune to daily alignment. Every day we’re exposed to idolatry, deception…worldly systems of tolerance and reciprocity disguised as love and compassion. We confess there’s much to be frustrated and angry about; however, we also confess your will in us, your Holy Spirit burning within, we have everything we need to counter culture with goodness, godliness, and the love you’re constantly perfecting inside our deep (Psalm 42:7). Give us the strength and discernment, Lord, to use your words in a language those around us can understand. Help us not be closed off to the raw giftings you’ve planted inside those who are far from you. If anything, help us know how to steward those divinely sown seeds so one day those carrying them will know without a day who they come from and why they are there. We choose you and accept the paths you’re establishing even now as we speak. May this all be so in your precious name. Amen.”

Footnotes

  1. As opposed to comfort zones