Monthly Archives: April 2010

Cruising down to Samaria

Some dudes on a pilgrimage went to a small settlement in Samaria; where they had hoped to find some some connections to Biblical times. No one was around! The place looked to be a ghost town…

The dudes sort of poked around here and there, took some photos and such, figured it was a lost cause. As they were about to leave, all of a sudden some angry dudes with guns showed up. Fortunately, no one got shot, nor even thrown in prison. Rather, they got pretty much just some verbal warnings that the Sabbath is to be respected, and visitors poking around on the Sabbath in this particular Samaritan settlement are not considered respectful in any form.

The above is a crude summary of a travel log I read a ways back. Sadly I can no longer find the original article such that I could provide a link or attribution. Ultimately, what it shows is that one really needs to do their homework, Going off the grid today so to speak could be pretty dangerous, which is what got me thinking about Philip, and other early missionaries. How far off the grid were they?

Philip went down to Samaria, and had amazing success at telling folks of Jesus… at least thats what we get from Acts 8. It almost seems too easy. Jerusalem to the middle of Samaria is perhaps 15 miles. If one assumes he was able to follow the Jordan river and didn’t have to do major mountain climbing, thats probably a 3 day trip at most. Add in the fact Stephen had just gotten stoned, Saul was fixing to destroy the church, and disciples were scattering all over… perhaps it was beat feet time, and only a days journey.

With Jerusalem and Samaria being so close together, I wonder how much of the Gospel had been there before hand. It seems if folks were aware of Saul, how much more so would they be at least partially aware of the message of Christ, even if only a bit here or there. Of course there were the problems that no one liked Samaritans, so maybe Philip really was walking in blind, being no one had shared with them before.

That being said, things are never easy! Samaria had Simon the Great Power, he had been there a long time, and folks were really amazed at what all he did…

What’s way cool is even Simon the Great Power turned to Christ and was baptized… but apparently he didnt have all his ducks in a row. He asked to purchase the power of laying on of hands for others to receive the Holy Spirit. Such an attempt at commerce didnt fly too well at all with Peter who told him he was full of bitterness and captive to sin…. fwiw, Peter’s response sort of throws a wrench into a lot of todays out there theology too.

To summarize, we have Philip going a short distance to a people who likely have heard bits of the Gospel, who have a history of belief in likely a hugely charismatic magician fellow… and many come to Christ.

Really, how different is that with us today? Case in point, look at the twin cities, churches everywhere, yet a huge number of unchurched folks too… and at the same time a friend from the southern hemisphere’s church group is planning a missions trip to St Paul…

When I think of missions, I think trans-oceanic, but realistically, what about a scattering over a 15 mile radius from ones home church? How many folks are unchurched within a 706 square mile area? Philip went only about 15 miles….

It would be remiss not to consider other factors…

  • The model for growth. Philip got things rolling, and then Peter and John followed up… and then they left. Sort of plant a church and go… where as todays model is plant a church, stay, and grow an enterprise. At least the laying on of hands is not commercialized… well, outside of the cost of post grad edu that is.
  • The presence of skin in the game, ie persecution. If folks heard of bits and pieces of the Gospel, (which albeit is not presented in scripture, I would find it hard not to believe they had not at least heard a tad of it before) you can be sure they knew of Saul’s zeal to persecute them if they believed and followed Christ… Todays church when under real persecution, not just day of prayer Christian radio protests, seems to thrive in a huge way. (Case in point China)