The Public Square: Acts 17.16-34

It’s been a bad week for our tech giants. As is now apparent, we’re not nearly the free thinkers we thought we were when we click and “like” our way through the digital universe. In fact, it looks like we’ve been sifted through algorithms and pitted against one another, resulting in one (but not the only) cause of some pretty hateful speech in the public square.

And then, there’s the Apostle Paul, in Athens, circa 50AD. Acts 17.16-24 is often touted as the New Testament’s best example of how to speak the gospel into a culture that is totally unlike ones own. But, it’s also a clinic on constructive public square speech. The passage includes a setting with a problem (:16-21) and then a sermon with a beginning (a hook), a middle (four points), and then an end that gets broken off through the Athenians’ lack of responsiveness. Paul wouldn’t have called it his finest hour, but we get an excellent primer on how we might introduce the gospel into our thoroughly post-modern, therapeutic culture.

When speaking in the public square, be generous and take people to JESUS. That summary captures the flavor, the character of Paul’s interaction. And, if studied and learned from, his example will help us in our own public square.

Here’s a few questions for further discussion with others:

  1. Why is it so hard to say anything in the public square, in our own American marketplace of ideas?
  2. How do we see Paul modeling generosity in speaking with his audience which is at once confused and distracted?
  3. What connection points does Paul make with his audience? What connection points might you make with yours?
  4. What particular things does Paul establish about God?
  5. What about Jesus does Paul definitely, absolutely, not leave out?
  6. Describe how you, form your own place in the public square, might likewise be generous and take people to Jesus? What might these encounters look like?
  7. What response should you expect when you do take people to Jesus?

Have a great weekend, and we’ll see you at Woodland!

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