Shipping the Gospel

The relative sophistication of ancient travel is a key to the spread of the gospel. /

In the United States today, most church planters estimate they need at least five years to establish a new church and perhaps four decades to establish a network like Vineyard or Acts 29. And this in an era of instant communication and rapid transportation.

When Paul and his team of synergos (“co-workers”) spread out across the Roman Empire to share the gospel in the first century, they did not enjoy such advantages. And yet we know that within three decades of the death and resurrection of Christ, groups of believers were firmly settled from Spain to Persia.

How did the early apostles do this? Let’s set aside for the moment the powerful work of the Holy Spirit. What were the means by which the gospel spread across this vast region?

Key Ministry in Ports

From Acts we know that Paul travelled by using both Roman roads (often paved) and commercial shipping. Travelling by ship was expensive, equivalent to first class air travel today in cost per mile, but it was the fastest and, in the summer months, the safest. But shipping was not as primitive as we might be lead to believe.

The shipping of the first century had been developing in both technology and speed over the previous seven centuries. Written records of trans-national shipping go back to the Phoenicians, who inhabited a coastal strip to the north of Israel. They rose to power around 700 B.C., about the time of David and Solomon, and used their expertise in building warships to also develop outstanding ships for commercial use. What may be the first written record of a supply chain appears in 1 Kings 5. The passage contains a commercial contract for supplying timber for building the temple in return for wheat and olive oil from Israel. ...

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Also in this Issue

Issue 12 / December 25, 2014
  1. Editors’ Note
  2. When Grace Goes Down Like Soup

    The ancient food is a leveler and a great comfort. /

  3. The Miracle of Exponential Growth

    For one thing, it would take us 100 billion years to grow up otherwise. /

  4. When Eternity Played by the Calendar

    A Christmas prayer /

  5. Wonder on the Web

    Links to amazing stuff

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