Paul and Silas were some of the very first missionaries of the gospel. They traveled to the people of Macedonia in Acts 16. Upon arriving, they made their way outside the city gate toward the river, looking for a place of prayer. It was there that they encountered a group of women. One of the women was named Lydia, whose heart was open to hearing the message Paul shared with her. She is thought to be the first believer in Europe — the beginning of a movement that resulted in the church at Philippi. This church became key in Paul’s ministry.
Reaching the unexpected
What stands out in this encounter is the intentionality of these men to reach someone unexpected. Not only did Paul and Silas venture out of Palestine into Europe, they left the place of prayer to spend time with a group of women. Stepping out of what was familiar, they began a movement that led to the spread of the gospel in Europe.
As churches, we often get caught up in reaching people who look like us and act like us. Perhaps we reach out to people who have a basic understanding of Christianity, but not to people who seem too far removed. We pick and choose who would fit best in our churches and communities based on what we see. It might be easier to talk to people who already know who Jesus is, but God calls us to more than reaching the easy-to-reach. Jesus spent time with the sinners, the outcasts and those forgotten by the most religious of His time. In John 20:21 He tells us, “As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you.”
When we build relationships with only those like us we miss the Lydias of our day. We overlook the people whose hearts may be ready to hear about God’s great love for all of us, and instead continue to toil in ground that has already seen a clear gospel influence. By not responding to the opportunities God has placed in our daily lives and in the areas around our church buildings, we miss the enrichment it could bring to our ministries, our congregations and our lives.
Meet them at the riverside
Today you may not meet your Lydia on the literal banks of a river, but your Lydia might be in the mobile home community down the road or the apartment complex you pass on your way to worship each week. You might meet them at the local fast-food joint, struggling to feed their family. They may not look exactly like you, but they desperately need the freeing truth of the gospel in their life.They are desperate for freedom from the weight of sin, but how will they hear it if those who have the good news of the gospel never go out of their way to share it with those who don’t?
Ask God to open your eyes to the Lydias and don’t be afraid to meet them at the riverside. You may be surprised by the way God uses you to make an eternal impact.