Acts 18

“Park People.” That was the name of a “community group” seeking new members in Broomfield, Colorado – my suburban town on the outskirts of Denver. Needless to say, I did not sign up. In your own mind, I’m sure that you have your own image of who the members of “Park People” might be. The possibilities are endless.

Priya Parker is an expert on facilitating groups and gatherings. In her book, “The Art of Gathering”, Parker notes the secret of success when using Meetup, an online platform for creating offline gatherings. She shares, "To increase the likelihood of success, Heiferman (the CEO of Meetup) and his team started to encourage organizers to put more specificity in the group's title, not just the descriptions…When an organizer writes a group name, the more adjectives she uses to descript the group, the more likely the group will have what Meetup calls 'tightness of fit.'" Specificity in messaging helps groups to solidify their core members while moving their mission and message forward.
In the book of Acts, Paul and his team found themselves adhering to Parker’s message. He was doing it right. The message Paul shared was unique and specific, but for some reason, the target audience of Torah-memorizing Jews, could not get on board. When faced with hateful opposition, Paul shakes the dust from his clothing and says, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on, I will go to the Gentiles," Acts 18:6.

Throughout his missionary journeys, Paul pivots. Although you might sense a bit of frustration in his statement to the disbelieving Jews, Paul doesn't seem weighed down by discouragement. How does Paul so easily dust off his clothes and move on, even when his message isn't landing, even when those who oppose him drag Paul into court before mercilessly beating him? Despite all of this, we never find Paul feeling offended or wavering in his belief. I'd like to argue that it is because he is one hundred percent confident in his message and belief. I believe Paul's complete trust in the message he was sharing directly impacted the level of offense he took when faced with rejection (…no offense).
One would think after facing such fierce rejection countless times, Paul would have stopped, or at least questioned, if what he was saying was true or even worth all the sacrifice. Yet, Paul continued to take no offense while steadfastly moving from group to group, sharing the same good news as he did in the town before. It's amazing and maybe even a little insane when you look at it from a "rational" perspective.

I can't help but put myself into Paul's shoes and wonder how I would have reacted in those situations.  How do you react when you are confident that you have “done it right,” but still meet opposition? Unfortunately, I believe that I might not follow in Paul’s footsteps. I'd like to blame it on my spicy personality, but in all honesty, I think it is because Paul's roots run a bit deeper than my own.

I wonder if Meetup's concept of specificity applies to my feeling of having "shallow roots" when I’m met with opposition. “Park People” is ambiguous and therefore, not for me. If I saw a very specific Meetup group for "Karate in the park with lightsabers," I would also know, “that’s not a group for me.”

When I read the messages that Paul shares about Jesus, I see that they are specific and meaningful. I know that they are for me. If you're feeling like your roots are just below the surface lately, I encourage you to lean into the specifics of Jesus. Rely on the specificity of each word that Jesus spoke, realizing that His communications were intentional and unique. And the beauty of Jesus’s specificity is that it reaches us all, wherever we are – whether an ambiguous “Park person,” or a specific “Karate in the park with lightsabers person,” Jesus has words that will land. He chose his words with a purpose. Today, allow His words to take hold of your life, and may your roots grow deeper.

By Jessyka Dooley

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