Why go there?
At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed.
So why did they go to Iconium? And what are the lessons for mission?
Perhaps these 7 lessons may help us …
- The city is approximately 90-100 miles from Antioch where they had been treated badly and expelled. Lesson: They put distance between themselves and the event. In other words ‘they moved on’ and so should we.
- The city was still within a Roman province, of Galatia. Paul was a Roman citizen which gave him privileges of always having a fair legal trial, never having a death penalty and he could never be whipped. He also could appeal directly to Caesar. Lesson: Use the privileges and the status that you may have, draw on favours, use your contacts. See everything as God-given to be used in mission.
- The same Phrygian dialect was spoken as that in Antioch which Paul and his team were familiar with. Lesson: Language was not a barrier to their mission.
- Iconium was on a major trade route called the ‘Emperor’s Road’. It connected the city with Antioch. Even today there is still an existing Roman bridge. Paul and his team walked this road and crossed the bridge at least twice on this their first missionary journey. Lesson: Go where there are people. Go where you can be seen. Some churches act like they are an underground church in China.
- The city was prosperous, agriculture was a growing business and there was plenty of water. Lesson: The salvation message isn’t only well received by those who are desperate, poor and the needy. It can also be received and is needed by people who have a sense of hope and well-being who carry a positive approach to their future.
- The city worshipped the mother goddess Cybele. Cybele was the mistress of wild nature symbolised by the lion that accompanied her in every statue. She was the goddess of protection in time of war and of fertility. Lesson: Generally speaking people want to live peacefully and be productive. We carry the gospel of peace and purpose from the God of gods.
- There was a Jewish synagogue in the city. Paul had been a Jewish student under Gamaliel. He belonged in the synagogue. Wherever he went he would head to the synagogue and start there, there was an open door always to him, at least to begin with! He was often invited to teach in the synagogue perhaps because they had previously heard about him. Lesson: Go where there is an open door already. Go to where you belong and work out from there. Go where you are familiar with the culture. Begin here.