Paul wrote the Book of Philippians to Christians in Philippi, one of Macedonia’s most significant cities at the time. The Church at Phillipi was reasonably sized (Acts 16:40), considerably wealthy (Phil. 4: 14 – 18), influential and impactful. A closer look at the founding narratives of the Church in Philippi reveals God’s heart for urban centres and conglomeration.
God directed Paul to Philippi
Firstly, it was God who directed Paul to Philippi. During Paul’s second missionary journey, the Holy Spirit strangely stops Paul from going further into Asia (Acts 16:6) and Bithynia (Acts 16:7). Paul encounters the ‘Macedonian Call’ (Acts 16:9) through a vision.
He recognises God’s ‘specific’ call to preach the Gospel in Macedonia and immediately alters his travel plans. He reaches Philippi via Samothrace and Neapolis. The City of Philippi was not just a significant city but also a Roman colony and a military station. Paul was at Phillipi by divine design (and not by default). It is difficult not to hear God’s heartbeat for Cities.
God blessed the Ministry in the City
Secondly, God blessed Paul’s ministry in Phillipi with His power and presence. We are specifically told about three conversion stories. Lydia – a trader in purple fabrics (Acts 16: 11- 15), a young girl – who was involved in divination (Acts 16: 16 – 24) and a Jailer (Acts 16: 25 – 39).
These conversions happen through a divine encounter. It was God who “opened Lydia’s heart” to respond to the Gospel. Paul exorcises the young girl (Acts 16:18), and the Jailer embraces the faith after the ‘earthquake’ (Acts 16:26-27). Paul’s preaching in Philippi bears the strong Name of Jesus. It is difficult not to see God’s move in the City.
God made the Church grow in the City
Thirdly, God made the Church grow. Lydia and her household received baptism immediately (Acts 16: 11 – 15). Paul spoke the Word of the Lord to “ all who were in the Jailer’s house ( Acts 16:32). Paul and his team preached for ‘many days’ (Acts 16:18), and by the time Paul left the City, there were a number of “brethren” (Acts 16:40). It is difficult not to see the Church taking roots in the City.
God opened ‘opportunities’ for Paul and his team at Phillipi. God also opened many hearts in the city to respond to the Gospel. When you read Paul’s letter to the Philippian Church, you hear God’s heartbeat for the cities.
Questions for Aha Moments 1) Have I felt God leading me to a City? Have I felt God stop me from moving to a City? 2) What would it take to hear God’s heartbeat for my city? Do I feel the move of God in my City? 3) Am I aware of God blessing the Church with his power and presence? Do I hear stories of the growth, impact and influence of the Church in my City?