Are You Ready to Turn the World Upside Down?

Sam Rainer

April 29, 2015


“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too . . .” (Acts 17:6). Such was the accusation of an angry mob against Paul and Silas. The good news had persuaded a few too many for those who held the power. Christians were getting the attention of society. A gospel movement was forming. It all came to a head in the middle of a city. And the world turned upside down.

I read this passage, and I am burdened. Too few churches are ready to turn the world upside down. I wonder how many church leaders even believe it’s possible. Then I watch on TV and read about how some Christians stepped up during the Baltimore riots, how some are leading recovery efforts in Nepal, and how some are laying down their lives in dark places of persecution.

Let me be bold: We can turn the world upside down. And your church can put the neighborhood on its head.

A lot of research points to a waning of Christianity in North America. Church attendance is becoming less frequent. Perhaps your local church is declining. Ample support for pessimism exists. However, pessimists are never leaders. The point of leadership is to take people to a better place. Are you ready to turn the world upside down? You’ll need to be an optimist, and you’ll need patience.

Leadership requires optimism. Every time you share the gospel, you should believe God will save. Every mission trip, every ministry effort, and every Sunday morning should be led with eternal optimism. We don’t know how and when God will work, but He does work. John 14:12 reveals a promise to which I cling: the promise of greater things. Jesus promises his followers more people to reach and more places to go. Pessimists don’t hop on airplanes to serve people halfway across the globe. Pessimists don’t give until it hurts. Pessimists don’t walk across the street to tell a neighbor about Jesus. We need an army of eternal optimists to turn the world upside down. We need pastors who believe in their churches.  We need churches that believe in their pastors. We need a gospel boldness that never quits.

Leadership requires patience. True gospel optimism is not capricious. Some places have hard soil. Some people have hard souls. Turning the world upside down may not happen overnight, and it will take hard work. Impatient leaders will make decisions selfishly, attempting to speed up the process artificially. Impatient churches will wrongly condemn leaders who do not “perform.” A patient leader also understands scope—you may not be the one who leads a global movement. But you can influence the people in your neighborhood. If everyone did that faithfully, this blue marble we live on would flip.

Balancing both patience and optimism is difficult. How does it happen? Consistent urgency. Luke 10:3 gives a simply command: “Now go.” This command is for every believer. We never stop going. We never stop believing God will do great things. We never stop digging into our local communities through our local churches. We simply remain consistently and patiently urgent. Now go . . . and watch the world turn upside down.

5 comments on “Are You Ready to Turn the World Upside Down?”

  1. Ron Keener says:

    What a wonderful verse you have identified. The burden you have identified in your own life and ministry is one that so many of us in the vineyards struggle with as well: a church board that is too content with the status quo, has no sense of urgency, and interested only in maintenance not mission (or at least no NEW mission that might take time away from their maintenance). It’s my burden too. Could it be that I am Jason too? That’s for God and others to say.

    I like the NLT study bible with its scriptural meaning and along side its life application. “Turned the world upside down” in some translations is dramatic for sure. The NLT study bible has this life application: “We don’t know much about Jason except that he evidently was the local host and sponsor of Paul and Silas; thus he took the heat for all the problems. Jason is just one of many ‘unsung heroes’ who faithfully played their part to help spread the Good News. Because of Jason’s courage, Paul and Silas were able to minister more effectively. You may not receive much attention (in fact, you may receive only grief) for your service for Christ. But God wants to use you. Lives will be changed because of your courage and faithfulness.”

    When my wife passed away a year ago people would say to me that I am still here because God still has a use for me. Well meaning I am sure, but I have trouble understanding that that means, as I only find myself misunderstood in, as you say, “put the neighborhood on its head.”
    :Eternal optimism’ is in short supply. I see “the promise of greater things” but few others do; Instead of thriving as a church, we survive–even as we trend downward.

    But I thank you for the story of Jason, who is a man after my own heart. I would be content with my life if I could merely measure up to him after three-quarters of a century enduring, as you call it, “the blue marble we live on.”

    1. Sam Rainer says:

      Thanks Ron. You offer great words of encouragement!

  2. Andy says:

    Thanks, this has encouraged me. I’m pretty green at witnessing. So starting out, it’s like I’m pouring my heart out to the person. When I don’t see a result, it’s discouraging and the tendency is to kind of recede back. This has given me a good dose of optimism. Like you say, we keep going and going with high expectation.

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