It is not a matter of right or wrong where an individual sets up camp to evangelize. There are things to consider objectively that the evangelist should consider however. First lets briefly summarize the purpose of missions. Evangelize as many people as possible. There are a number of people in the world that have never heard the gospel. The church’s missions is reduce this number to zero. So with this in view, where can a missionary go to be the most effective in this goal? What are the pros and cons to urban and suburban evangelism? Are certain locations going to result in evangelization more than others?
Ask anyone on our team and we are all going to recommend the larger cities over rural missions. Since we believe the goal is reach as many as possible with the Gospel, the clear decision where to go is then where the people are. The city in Taiwan where we are now working has incredibly dense population. Homes are literally stacked on each other reaching up into the city skyline. We think that evangelists in the early church would agree with our assessment going to places like this is where we should be starting. Paul, during his missionary journey, stopped in three cities for a significant amount of time: Ephesus (2 years), Corinth (1.5 Years, multiple visits), Antioch (at least 2 years). Each of these cities were relatively largest cities of the world of their time. Philippi would have been considered a small town where Paul only spent about a week. The correlation of time spent in some of these places also depended on the kind of response he received after the giving of the gospel.
Also the public forums of larger towns would have especially drawn the interest of Paul. Larger cities are plentiful in public forums, they could hold larger audiences. He understood the importance of a public forum where people did nothing else but listen to him talk, such as the ready made forums of public square markets and Mar’s Hill. Once in these places, he spoke the content of the gospel. Once he felt a certain level of evangelization had been achieve, Paul was driven toward other cities with greater numbers of the unevangelized. At no time do we see Paul laying down roots for years and years, he always maintained an attitude of mobility. It is conceivable that in a modern city of millions of people, one may spend a lifetime evangelizing in that city, but Paul almost certainly would not remain in the same area of that city for an exaggerated amount of time. For Paul, whether it was reasons of persecution or receiving a vision or a great burden of debt to a group of people, he was never stationary while on the mission. Paul’s missionary example was undeniably nomadic.
Paul also knew the gospel itself is nomadic and we see the gospel spreading across Europe and Asia from these larger cities. In our next post lets look at Paul’s basic process of evangelization and some practical applications for the missionary.