Hey... I'm writing like 8 of these in the next couple of days (I guess: 5 more)...
I have an illness that keeps me from being able to write the last page of an assignment. These are 3-4 pages, and I'm usually just able to wring out 2 pages. This is the first one I did, and it is probably the best, so tell me what you think.
(The topic is Outreach Methods that struck my fancy from 0-500 AD)
In the available texts, the early years of Christianity are covered briefly, so Paul and his methods are the most robustly covered from the beginning to 500AD.
Paul's practice of basing his ministry out of the major cities was suited to his ministry context. In the Roman empire, cities were the hub of activity within a region. Paul was able to set up shop in a city and his message would diffuse to the smaller towns in the surrounding area. This allowed Paul to be much more effective than if he stopped in each town along his way and tried to spread the message from there.
Paul was not, however, a slave to "efficiency". He remained open to the Spirit and moved accordingly, such as in the case of the vision of the Macedonian man calling him to cross the Aegean. This ballance between moving as the Spirit wills and using efficient strategy is a very tough one to strike and Paul did it masterfully.
Often, it seems, outreach can be too structured, which leads to people staying with the structure when the Spirit is saying to do something crazy, or not structured enough, which leads to malaise when the Spirit does not guide you step by step through the process.
Moving forward with a strategy that is sound but flexible enough to accomodate the guidance of the Spirit seems to be the way Paul operated. The strategy of moving from large city to large city was even abandoned towards the end of Paul's ministry, for it seems he was unable to continue beyond Rome into Gaul. Sometimes "flexiblity" extends beyond elasticity and into the realm of holding together even after breaking.
At the same time, the Spirit isn't always sending visions of where to go and what to do (I think) and at these times, it is good to have a plan of action for day-to-day operation. In this case, examples escape me because I don't know what was going on between Paul and the Holy Spirit from moment to moment.
Taloring the outreach strategy to the ministry context is the key to success. Had the Roman Empire been of a different nature, say, the flow of ideas and commerce was generally from the towns to the cities, a different strategy would have been better suited to that context. Paul's strategy worked to greater and lesser extent; He didn't seem to make much of an impression on the Athenians, but the Bereans were extremely receptive to his message.
Here, I think I have fallen into the trap of thinking that results are the measure of success. Each place Paul was responded differently because of the stage they were at. Some plant, some water, but it is God that makes it grow. It seems that Paul was able to see his path. He didn't stay in a place that needed planting and try to bring the crop in. He stuck with his plan and fulfilled different tasks in different areas. This must be done with an ear open to the Spirit. Sometimes methods need changing; Sometimes it is simply time to move on.
Itenerant preaching seems to be the outreach mode of this time period. Christianity was radiating from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria and to the ends of the earth. The preachers carried the gospel to the lost. Conversely, it seems that local outreach occasionally takes the form of "here it is, come get it." The drawing in method does not seem to be as effective as the going out method. Often complacency arises when the mind is set on drawing people to the gospel instead of taking the gospel to the lost.
Paul remained open to the Spirit, carried the gospel to the lost, and did so with a method which suited his ministry context. His method worked well and spread the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire.