Do you remember Pauls visit to the Areopagus, what we call Mars Hill? The
inhabitants of that hotbed of intellectualism remind me of Hollywood, todays
Not that theres anything wrong with being intellectual. Jesus challenged
often with deep wisdom that requires daily study, reflection and application to
our lives. Great scholars continue to find insights in Jesus words. In fact, He
made the playing field level by speaking truths that could be understood by
followers of any intellectual giftedness or educational background when
enlightened by the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 17, we find Paul visiting the intellectual elite of Athens. He had
been in the synagogue reasoning with Jews and God-fearing Greeks and also in
the marketplace where he encountered a group of philosophers. They heard him
talking about Jesus teachings and resurrection, and they wanted to know more.
These philosophers spent their time learning about and discussing the latest
ideas, so they were remarkably open-minded.
Naturally, Paul seized the opportunity to tell them more of the gospel. He
attended a meeting of their council at Areopagus. He didnt insult his
listeners, but he was direct. Paul knew that, in the past, such great minds had
produced some admirable thinking about taking personal responsibility in a
civilized societythe generation Paul was dealing with were heirs to the
philosophies of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Zeno and Epicurus. But, more
recently, their philosophy had degenerated into a system of pride.
Still, they were considered the custodians of teachings on morals and
religion. They were recognized as the cultural gatekeepers, people who
determined who could speak at public gatherings in Athens, who could shape the
attitude of citizens. All things considered, Paul figured their council was a
pretty good place for a sermon. But, remember, Paul didnt think of himself as a
great orator. Yet he saw a need to influence the influencers of Athens with the
gospel of Jesus. And he saw there was no one else to do it, so he took on the
PHOTO BY Miramax/courtesy Everett C ollection
Okay, scene change: twenty-first century. Imagine yourself talking to the
cultural gatekeepers of todaypeople who just happen to be trained and equipped
with all the talent and technology required to produce movies as artistic as,
lets say, The Matrix or Chicago. In The Matrix
people fly through the air with incredible martial-arts moves or leap from
building to helicopter. In our hearts, we know its computer graphics, but we
cant take our eyes from what we chose to accept as the action on the screen.
Its like Richard Gere saysor rather sings!in Chicago: everyone wants a
little razzle dazzle.
Is Hollywood a daunting mission field? You bet! And so are the other
cultural gatekeepers of 2003: the print and broadcast media, our national and
local politicians, the education establishment, top leaders in business and
industry, just to name a few. These people are savvy, and theyre used to the
But we can reach themwith Gods helpand we must. Its the challenge for our
generation of Christs followers to be on mission to these
It would be easier to curse the darkness than to shine a light. We could
just keep score on how low Hollywood sinks. Or we could try to reach the
entertainment industry with the knowledge that, with changed hearts, they could
use their incredible influence to tell others about Christ.
We also could adopt the attitude that Hollywood is too coarse and cynical to
reach. We could avoid it like Jonah avoided Nineveh. But isnt that saying God
isnt great enough to reach the toughest mission field?
Did Paul falter? No. Was he successful? Yes. Read Acts 17:32-34: When
they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others
said, We want to hear you again on this subject. At that, Paul left the
Council.A few men became followersof Paul and believed.
Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named
Damaris, and a number of others.
Imagine what would happen in Hollywood if only one man and one womanperhaps
studio heads or directorsbecame followers of Christ! Fortunately, God has
placed some Christians in Hollywood who are serving Him faithfully and making a
difference. Lets pray that their tribe will increase.
Dr. Bob Reccord is president of the North American Mission Board, SBC.
His latest book is Beneath the Surface: Steering Clear of Dangers that
Could Leave You Shipwrecked (Broadman & Holman 2002). He is host of the
Strength for Living Baptist Hour which airs on more than 400 radio
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