Back in the 40s and 50s, a minority group thought that they had an excellent way to make society better — they would make people better. In their midst was a man who was educated, charismatic, determined, and very religious; he was a rising star in their movement. They put their plan into action in the areas in which they lived, and had some success, but they also faced serious opposition, even persecution; they were forced out of some places, they were targeted for assassination, and their leader was beaten nearly to death.
They returned to their base of operations to regroup and revise their plan. The leader had a notion to effect their desired changes in another place, but he was prevented from going. But this man had a message, and he was on a mission, and he had a vision. He pulled his team out of the place to which he was prevented from going, and they set out to do their work somewhere else. When they began having success in this new place, they again became targets of the entrenched, corrupt political system. They were arrested and jailed. But they were not without support from the ruler with ultimate authority, and after a groundbreaking event, they were freed.
The city officials asked them to leave the city, which they did. But the ultimate success of their efforts was truly epic. Their message had found fertile ground among all classes of people there, and in time an entire continent had been radically changed because of the commitment of this tiny group that endured and risked so much on the notion that they could make the world a better place by changing the way people think.
Yes, that was back in the 40s and 50s. Not the 1940s and 1950s, but the actual 40s and 50s. The place was the Middle East and Greece; the tiny group was a new religious sect that came to be known as Christians, and their leader was Saul of Tarsus, known to us today as Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ.
Paul and his compatriots made three missionary journeys to spread the Gospel, the second of which is of particular interest to us. As I described it above, Paul wanted to go to Asia to preach, but Acts 16 tells us that the Holy Spirit prevented him. In a vision, Paul saw a man standing across the sea, shouting to him, “Come to Macedonia and help us!” Paul immediately assembled his team and went. (By the way, the “groundbreaking event” to which I referred was an earthquake which caused enough damage to the jail that Paul and Silas were able to escape, but not before converting the jailer to Christianity.)
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