Read: Acts 18:5-11 NRSV
When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with proclaiming the word, testifying to the Jews that the Messiah was Jesus. When they opposed and reviled him, in protest he shook the dust from his clothes and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the gentiles.” Then he left the synagogue and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God; his house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the official of the synagogue, became a believer in the Lord, together with all his household, and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul became believers and were baptized. One night the Lord said to Paul in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to harm you, for there are many in this city who are my people.” He stayed there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
We think of Acts as a book of events. So much happens! It’s much more exciting than the more epistolary books in the New Testament. However, there is an important detail in this passage that is helpful to highlight before continuing with the nonstop action: it’s the last sentence. “[Paul] stayed there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. We don’t know if Paul traveled more than the other apostles. It’s possible that the others spread the gospel just as prolifically but didn’t have the good fortune to have their letters saved for 2000 years. But even Paul, whose travels are extensively detailed, stayed and built relationships wherever he shared the story of Jesus.
So much of mission work is just that: relationship building. The majority of Paul’s letters were to friends and fellow believers who knew Paul and the other disciples. They broke bread and sewed tents together. Paul had the authority to solve disputes not only because he was a spiritual leader but also because he knew his audiences. He built strong enough relationships to speak to the underlying issues in the fledgling churches.
So as we go out into our communities this week, we can remember that we are not foreign representatives arriving for a brief diplomatic meeting with strangers. We are neighbors who build relationships. We offer the news of Jesus Christ along with the spare key to our house. We offer spiritual guidance as friends and equals. Our mission work lasts a lifetime!