Default Position; Acts 17:16-21

A student once said to me "I don't think there is any such thing as an "evangelistic opportunity"." When I asked what he meant he replied "the very vocabulary leads us to a wrong default position. As soon as we speak in those terms we immediately imply that there are times of evangelistic opportunity and times that aren't. Witness becomes an occasional subset of my life rather than the default position from which I approach everything that happens to me all the time."

The way we think about our default position governs how we behave in any given circumstance. The student's default was like Paul's in Athens. There was no point at which he wasn't open and ready to take initiative for the gospel.

Our default position determines:

1. What we do while waiting. While waiting for the other members of his team Paul took a good look around Athens, not as a tourist, but actively sizing up how to present Jesus and the resurrection to the people there. In the absence of specific guidance we are meant to say "I will get on with witnessing until God tells me to stop", not "I will hang around doing nothing until God tells me to go." Default position

2. How ready we are to speak to the kinds of people who come across our path, and how ready we are to go looking for people. In Paul's case he was a debating kind of man, he liked meeting people cold and striking up conversations, so that's what he did. In the synagogue, in the market and with a group of philosophers. We aren't all like Paul, but we all have different groups of people and situations that are ready made to speak to about Jesus. But we only do it regularly, automatically and normally if that is our default

3. How ready we are when God brings the unexpected our way. Paul didn't plan to get taken to the Athens philosophical society. That was God brinigng that about. But his default position meant that he was able to address them rather than being floored by the occasion. If his default had been different he would have politely declined.

  • A friend of mine received an inpromtu, spontaeous invitation on a train in another country to talk to some university lecturers about being a mathematician and a Christian. He arrived to find several hundred people. He only dealt well with it because his default was that God can do that. 
  • My church trainee always seems to start his day with the question "I wonder what God is going to bring along today?" Recently a van driver stopped by him in the road and asked him if he knew the way to a brothel! My trainee said to me "ker-ching! That's the conversation God wanted to set up for today, so I told him all about Jesus."  Default position
  • I remember going to a university and being asked on the spur of the moment to speak about Jesus in a rough bar, standing on the bar. People threw bottles. Default position

We only do these kinds of things when its our default position. Make the most of every opportunity. For sure we aren't all evangelists. But we are all witnesses. Speak the gospel until God says stop. Don't wait for writing in the sky until you start, you will wait a long time. My church trainee's question should be the daily starting point for every believer: I wonder what God is going to bring along today?