Paul the Apostle, formerly known as Saul, took a dramatic turn on the Road to Damascus. If you need a quick refresher, you can read Acts 9:1-22. God used the Apostle Paul as an influential voice in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul sets incredible precedence for minsters throughout the ages. Here are a few lessons today’s missionaries can learn from Paul the Apostle:
1. Seek instruction
Paul didn’t dive into his ministry right away. Although he was a trained Pharisee and knew the Old Testament inside and out, he intentionally took time to study and pray. Paul writes that he went away to Arabia for three years to study the Word of God before his ministry truly began (Galatians 1:15-20).
2. Pray continually
Paul instructed the Thessalonians to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Not only did he give the instruction, but he embodied it, too. Paul exemplifies a faithful prayer life. He continually thanked God for his brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. He prayed for the salvation of the lost and asked God to bestow peace, endurance, encouragement, and unity upon his fellow believers. Through prayer, the Holy Spirit often led Paul on where to go and what to do next in his ministry (Acts 16:6-25).
3. Find a ministry partner
Ministry is an incredible responsibility–one meant to share. Paul often traveled with a companion. On his first missionary journey, Paul started with Barnabas (Acts: 13-15). Later, Paul partnered with Silas (Acts 16-17:15). As it is written, “two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to get him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
4. Understand the local culture
Paul recognized “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Paul understood the common denominator of humanity: everyone needs Christ’s salvation. Even so, he modified his message for listeners of different cultures and backgrounds to comprehend the Gospel message better. In Acts 17:16-34, Paul preaches to idol worshipers in Athens. Spotting an altar dedicated to an “unknown god,” Paul fearlessly speaks of the true God, who has remained unknown to them, and many received salvation because of his creativity. Paul clung to humanity’s unifying need and shared the Gospel in ways people would best understand it (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
5. Work to provide
In addition to preaching, Paul made tents (Acts 18:1-4). He did this as a way to provide for himself and the entire community. He served faithfully, gave generously, and supported the poor and weak around him. As a result, Paul actively ministered to the whole person, in body and spirit.
6. Endure faithfully
Missions work is not the safest or easiest occupation. Paul accounts his many sufferings for Christ to include multiple stonings, countless beatings, dangerous conditions, threatening thieves, sleepless nights, and starvation (2 Corinthians 11: 23-30). Even so, Paul praised the Lord, never losing hope. God always listened. He never left Paul and worked incredible miracles in the heat of desperation and persecution (Acts 16:25-26; 28:3-6). Paul seized the challenges as testimonies to God’s incredible power and faithfulness.
7. Mentor the next generation
Paul ministered to leave a legacy. Most notably, Paul mentored Timothy and wrote at least two letters of encouragement to the young preacher, as found in First and Second Timothy. Paul yearned for Timothy, his spiritual son, to join him on ministry journeys. Paul invested in Timothy, recognized his gifts and talents (2 Timothy 1:5-7), and encouraged him to stand firm as a faithful witness to Christ, even while Paul was in prison.
What ways have you found Paul the Apostle as an inspiring example and encouragement? Comment below!