The Influential Church
During our Sabbatical we walked through the ancient ruins of the City of Ephesus. Ephesus is in modern day Turkey and is one of the most extensive archeological sites in the entire world. You might be familiar with Ephesus from the books of Acts and the book that bears the name of the city’s residents, Ephesians. (When I have better bandwidth I’ll post some pictures and some videos of this amazing place.)
As we walked along we were all amazed at the sheer massiveness that once held some 300,000 people. We began our tour at the peak of the mountain/hill on which the city sits. We could look out into the valley and see for hundreds of acres the amazing sights and the many discoveries of a city that was founded almost 2,000 years before the birth of Christ.
Ephesus was one of the most influential cities in the ancient world for two reasons. #1 it housed one of the largest and most extensive libraries second only to the famed library at Alexandria. #2 it was the epicenter and the birth place of the worship of the Goddess Diana or Artemis. Ephesus was, for all intents and purposes, the center of spirituality and knowledge for all of Asia.
The Apostle Paul came to Ephesus somewhat by “accident”, at least by man’s perception. Acts 19 records that he had been teaching many of the coastal cities, and he decided to trek inland. He came to Ephesus and discovered that there were a handful, 12 men, of disciples there. So, he decided to teach them and those who would listen in the local synagogue. But after a few months the leaders of the synagogue became increasingly jealous of Paul, so he left and went to a local, secular philosophy hall (Acts 19:9) where he taught for 2 years. The crowd continued to grow and many, many people came to Christ and a large church began to grow at Ephesus. They in turn invited their friends to come and listen, who invited their friends, and so on. It became such a “phenomenon” that people from all around Asia came to listen. It was so pervasive and influential that both those who were supporters of and the enemies of Christianity and Paul admitted it’s unbelievable influence in the region…
This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. (Acts 19:10 ESV)
And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. (Acts 19:26 ESV)
The second statement was from a man named Demitrius, I’ll talk about him during another post.
As we were in the midst of our tour our guide stopped and pointed out several etchings of crosses and made this incredible statement, “Ephesus was once THE center of worship of the Goddess Artemis, yet within just a short time after the Apostle Paul came almost the entire city became Christians. The church at Ephesus became one of the largest and most influential churches during the first three centuries.”
Can you imagine that? A city entirely dedicated to the worship of a false god was completely turned upside down for Christ. It influenced all of Asia and the world for Christ!
Isn’t the transforming and penetrating power/love of Christ amazing?! Who else but Christ could take a former persecutor and murderer of the church (Paul) and “accidentally” send him to a city under the dark captivity of idol worship and turn it into the launching pad of Christianity for all of Asia?!
My friend, I don’t care what garbage is holding you bondage, I don’t care what lie you’ve been telling yourself about how you “can’t overcome this”, I don’t care where you’ve come from, or what you’ve done. If the transforming power and love of Christ can do this, he can change you into a person of influence for His name too!