Paul was a radical follower of Jesus. After meeting Jesus, he spent his life traveling the world, kind of like going on tour with a band, preaching Jesus and planting churches. He regularly suffered because of this.
Paul and his band didn’t have great marketing tools, neither did they have a promoter or tour manager. They wanted to go where people needed to hear the message, and their tour manager was the Holy Spirit. We read in Acts 16 that as Paul and his band traveled through the Middle East and Turkey, they thought of then heading further into Asia. But it says the Holy Spirit didn’t allow them and that Paul received a vision of a man from Macedonia calling for help. The band decided this was God leading them to Macedonia. Philippi was an important city of Macedonia in those days, often thought of as the gate to Europe. This is where Paul and his band headed, so the Philippians became the first Europeans to hear the Gospel.
Paul’s mission strategy was to go to key cities and plant a community of believers. He always started by connecting with the city culture - finding out what was the culture and beliefs and going to where people met. His first choice was always the Jewish synagogues - a place where people met and a point of contact or common ground for the gospel. If Paul had a rock band, he’d be hitting all the local clubs and getting to know the scene.
In Philippi, there was no synagogue as there weren’t the minimum required ten Jewish men. So he goes to a women’s prayer group instead. If Paul had a band, this town didn’t have any major clubs or festivals to get into, so he was happy to play for a small women’s group. A lady called Lydia led the group, and she decides to follow Jesus, so she and her household are baptized.
Then they try hitting the public squares, but a girl possessed with a spirit follows them round yelling. It’s always hard getting through a gig with a heckler in the crowd. Paul casts the demon out of her, so she stops interrupting the gig, but this angers some business men who made money out of her demonic divination skills. They get Paul beaten and arrested.
Paul and his band then decide to perform in jail, singing songs of praise to God even in such difficult circumstances. God joins in, adding special effects, with an earthquake that breaks the prison open. Afraid for his life the jailor asks Paul how he can be saved, and he and his family also decide to follow Jesus and are baptized.
So in their first week touring Philippi, they meet lots of people, lead them to Jesus, get arrested and beaten, and eventually plant a church formed of a Jewish women’s prayer group and the city jailor! This church saw first hand in Paul what it meant to follow Jesus, and they chose to do the same.
Paul goes on to maintain a great relationship with this church. As it often is with rockstars, Paul is always getting arrested, so he is writing this letter from Rome, where he is again in prison awaiting sentence. The letter shows Paul’s example and teaching on what it means to be a true follower of Jesus. In the first chapter, he declares that for him “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (1:21). The church in Philippi began because of this - Paul’s radical obedience to Jesus.
I believe we would have a more fruitful ministry as artists who follow Jesus if we have guys like Paul as our role models, rather than some of the role models our current scene has to offer. For the next season of my part in this blog, I want to invite you on a journey with me through the book of Philippians, connecting precious Biblical principles with our context as artists wanting to follow Jesus.
- Luke Greenwood