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  21st November, 1999  


  The Millennial Mega-Trends
"Using the Information Highway"
     
  Acts 16:1-10


Technology plays an important role in witnessing to our faith. Jonathan Edwards, that great preacher and revivalist of the United States in the 18th Century, attributed the spread of revival to the printing press of the 1730. Today the information highway: telephones, mobile phones, radio and TV, faxes, the Internet, computers, and satellite TV are being harnessed to aid evangelism.

State-of-the-art technology transforms evangelistic crusades into multimedia celebrations. In 1993, an evangelistic outreach, Operation Powerlink, drew 1 million teenagers to 50,000 pizza parties across USA for prayer and evangelism. Josh McDowell preached and when he gave an invitation to follow Christ, some 87,000 young people said " yes" to Jesus.

Billy Graham conducted a Global Mission from the West Indies preaching via satellite TV to 500 million in stadiums, churches, shopping malls, clubs and churches in 160 countries. This eliminates the boundaries of time, geography, and culture, generating a global interest and commitment. One of the great megatrends of twentieth century that we must take into the twentyfirst century is the use of electronic technology for the spreading of the Gospel. When we talk about this, Wesley Mission stands in a strong position, because no church in this nation has used electronic media and information technology more effectively than Wesley Mission. The Apostle Paul would approve completely, for he used the information highways available to him.
1. THE SPREAD OF THE EARLY FAITH.
Take for example, the portion of Scripture set for tonight. The Apostle Paul was travelling round the Agean Sea. AC 16:1-5 "He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers."

Paul pushed through the Cilician Gates in the Taurus mountains, and with Silas came to the Galatian town of Derbe and then moved on to Lystra. At Lystra he found a young man highly spoken of by believers in both Lystra and neighboring Iconium. From Paul's reference to Timothy 1 Cor 4:17 as his "son", we assume that Timothy's conversion to Christ dates from the proclamation of the gospel on this first missionary journey during A.D. 49-50. The missionary outreach was confined to the major cities connected by the Roman roads. Paul stayed on the major highways. If there were interesting villages up the valleys, he sent one of the young preachers into that area.

AC 16:6-8 "Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas."

The missionary journeys of Paul reveal an extraordinary combination of strategic planning and sensitivity to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Having revisited the churches at Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch, Paul evidently expected to follow the Via Sebaste westward to the important coastal city and capital of the Roman province, Ephesus. But he was "kept by the Holy Spirit" from entering Asia and so continued throughout "the region of Phrygia and Galatia."

Paul's party moved northwest along the borders of Mysia. They decided to go on into the area of Bithynia to evangelize the strategic cities and important Black Sea ports there via the Roman road. But, Luke tells us, "the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them." Instead, he traveled to Troas, the city known in Greek history as Troy. Haven't you heard of Helen of Troy? Troas, or Troy, at the mouth of the Dardenelles, was the pivotal port between the land masses of Europe and Asia Minor and the Aegean and Black seas.

V9 "During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them." Paul took this as a divine call to evangelize Macedonia. Paul met Dr Luke at Troas, and Luke impressed upon him the need for the preaching of the gospel in Macedonia, an encounter God used in a vision to direct Paul and his colleagues to Macedonia. Paul and his party responded to it "immediately" by making preparations to leave for Neapolis in Macedonia.

Authentic turning points in history are few. But surely among them that of the Macedonian vision ranks high. Because of Paul's obedience here, the gospel went westward; and ultimately Europe and the Western world were evangelized. Christian response to the call of God is never a trivial thing. In this instance, great issues and untold blessings resulted. It is at Troas that the first of the "we" sections of Acts appears. 16:10-17 In other words, the author, Dr Luke, has been telling a history of what had happened to the leaders of the early church. They are spoken about by name or as "they" or "them". Now because Luke has joined them, everything that happens is in the first person plural, "we". This "we" section stops at Philippi, then recommences when the missionaries revisit Philippi on the third missionary journey, indicating Luke stayed at Philippi while Paul and Silas and others went on. Because their ministry at Philippi receives the greatest attention we may surmise that the use of "we" points to a resident of Philippi who traveled from Troas to Philippi with Paul and Silas, Luke himself. Acf. 16:10-40; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16).

Some roads travelled by Paul are known to Aust-ralians. They are not the normal tourist routes. Older Australians know them. Many have made a pilgrimage to the Dardanelles, over the Razorback Hills and down to Anzac Cove in the area of Gallipoli, where Australian troops were blooded in 1915. This is the area Paul was working at the time of our Scripture reading. The Apostle Paul went through those same mountains and coves where Australians fought and died.

Paul crossed into the northern part of what today we call Greece. Twice we note that Paul wanted to go elsewhere but the Holy Spirit would not let him. When he wanted to go into Bithynia, "the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them." Instead, Paul and his companions were guided elsewhere. Then Paul wanted to turn right and go into The Black Sea, but the Spirit of Jesus said, "Turn left!" Then Paul wanted to go down to Ephesus on the coast, but again the Spirit of Jesus would not let him. Instead, "Go north!" was the order.

So he moved north. Because Paul was prevented from going back into Asia, Christianity, instead of spending its future in the continent of its origin, made the giant step into Europe. Paul did not realise it, but the few verses of our reading are the hinge verses that took the Christian faith away from the east where it was born, into the west where it was going to flourish. It was a major change of direction in the history of the Christian church. How was all of this accomplished? Paul used the information highways of his day.

2. THE ROMAN ROADS.
There were few paved roads until the Romans began to build a system of fine roads, connecting the provinces of the Empire to Rome, but not with each other. This is why 'all roads led to Rome'. The Romans built roads to keep their empire together, to make it possible to move troops and goods, and to send imperial despatches long distances at speed. A courier on the Roman roads could cover about 120km a day.

Roman roads were superbly constructed. They were paved with flat stones or with specially-cut blocks of stone on top of three layers of foundation material. The road-builders built bridges over rivers, causeways through marshes, and tunneled through rock. They built more than 80,000km of roads through more than 30 modern nations. The network remained in use during the Middle Ages, and remnants of it are still in existence. The Roman road system gave citizens of the ancient empire access to the most distant provinces. Initially, Roman authorities constructed roads to accommodate military movements, transport and communication between towns and army camps. But the roads were also used by merchants, who paid road tolls at regular intervals. Paul was a Roman citizen and therefore had the right to unimpeded travel. Paul walked the Via Appia, the Via Sabaste, the Via Egnatia, and so on, to take the Gospel to new areas.

3. THE INFORMATION HIGHWAY TODAY.
Today the most effective way is to proclaim the Good News through television, radio and the internet. Wesley Mission accepted this task of evangelism through the media with resolve. Wesley Mission has the largest media ministry of any church in Australia. Although the media is used to inspire and educate, to propagate Christian truth and to encourage believers, in all of our major television programs, both "specials" throughout the year and in our regular weekly programs seen nationally, there is opportunity for people to make commitments to Jesus Christ by ringing tele-counsellors who are at a central point.

These tele-counsellors are trained to use Scripture to counsel people according to their needs, helping them to make commitments to Jesus Christ. Then literature is sent to them, and local churches contacted so that they might be followed up and encouraged to come into membership locally. No-one else does this in Australia. This counselling role by parish members is valuable to the kingdom of God.

Media outreach takes the message of the Gospel across the nation. The Apostle Paul utilized the highways of the ancient Roman world to take the gospel to the empire. Today those highways are magazines and newspapers, the airways of radio and television, of videos, films and the Internet. At Easter and Christmas, special programs are also taken by a much wider network of television stations. Every Sunday "Sunday Night Live", on Sydney station 2GB presents, over four hours, the best in Christian comment and interviews and over its years on air has become the most listened to Christian program in Australia and the program that reaches the highest ratings of all on the station. Optus Vision telecasts our services. We produce "Impact" and "Frontlines" featuring news of Mission activities and stories of conversion. Our audio and video cassettes reach untold numbers every week.

Yes! The Apostle Paul would approve our use of the highways available to us to take the Gospel to the world, as he used the Roman roads. What is important, is that we use these highways to take the Gospel of Jesus to all the world so that everyone may respond to the claims of Jesus.



Rev Dr Gordon Moyes



Send an e-mail to Gordon Moyes - gkmoyes@wesleymission.org.au

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