*This paper was presented by the late Dr. David J. Cho at the 2006 Triennial Convention of the Asia Missions Association in Turkey. We are running his paper as a tribute to the man who pioneered international mission in Asia particularly South Korea. This paper shows the thoughts and ideas of Dr. David J. Cho on missions, the apostolic way. Dr. David J. Cho was promoted to glory on June 19, 2020 to join his Creator. (Ed.)
EPHESUS AS THE HEARTLAND OF APOSTOLIC MISSION
We are here at the ancient ruins of Ephesus to restore apostolic mission to our way of mission. Ephesus was the heartland of apostolic mission since the Apostle Paul first passed by Ephesus with Aquila and Priscilla in 50 AD. One day Apollos, a Jew from Alexandria, came to Ephesus to teach the truth about Jesus.
When Paul came to Ephesus again in 54 AD, Apollos had brought many people to Christ, but they knew nothing of the Holy Spirit. Paul laid his hands on them and the Holy Spirit came upon them. For three months, the Apostle Paul taught of the Kingdom of God, but there were some people who became hardened and disobedient. Paul, taking with him his disciples, withdrew from them to reason daily at the school of Tyrannus. This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia, both Jews and Greeks heard the word of the Lord. Therefore, I dare to say that Ephesus is the heartland of the Apostolic Mission in Asia.
According to chapter 19 of the Book of Acts of the Apostle Paul’s ministries at Ephesus, the city of Ephesus was full of followers of Paul, having turned to Jesus Christ from the immoral idol worship of Artemis. The Apostle Paul was threatened to be killed by huge riots by Demetrius and his silversmith workers who were making a silver shrine of Artemis. However, the political powers of Ephesus had already become believers and part of Paul’s group , and by the help of political officials of the Province Asia, Paul was able to get out of the turmoil.
In less than three years of ministries in Ephesus, Paul was not only able to win the people spiritually, but he also transformed them in their cultural life, economic order and political power. After the turmoil, the Apostle Paul left to Macedonia, he asked Timothy to remain in Ephesus and Timothy became a succeeding leader of the church in Ephesus.
The Apostle Paul was killed in Rome on 68 AD by Nero, one of the cruelest Roman Emperors, While in prison in Rome, Paul wrote twice to Timothy. Timothy often wrote to Apostle John who was in Jerusalem, and asked John to come to help at the church of Ephesus. Timothy led the Ephesian church until the Apostle John came to Ephesus. In 80 AD, twenty-six years after the Apostle Paul was martyred in Rome, John came with Jesus’ mother, Mary, in 80 AD. In this way, Ephesus became the heartland of apostolic mission, and it is also why we are gathered here in Ephesus.
ASIA MINOR AS THE CENTER OF APOSTOLIC AND POST-APOSTOLIC MISSION
The brutal Roman emperor continued to persecute and kill thousands of believers and over hundreds of thousands of Christians became slaves. Yet there were many followers of Apostle Paul in Ephesus and in cities throughout Asia Minor. There were also trustworthy fellow laborers for the spreading of the Gospel such as Polycarp, Papias, Antipas, Ignatius, Onesimus, Philemon, and Gaius.
All of these followers of Paul were under the Apostle John’s leadership while he was in Ephesus. And they became post-Apostolic Mission leaders in Asia Minor, such as Ignatius at Syrian Antioch and Polycarp at Smyrna, Gaius and Antipas at Pergamum, and Lydia who accepted the Gospel from Apostle Paul while Paul visited Macedonia. Lydia, a widow of Thyatira was the first person who became a believer in Thyatira. Clement, one of the Apostle Paul’s followers, started a church in Sardis.
The Apostle Paul appointed Lucius as a leader of the Church of Philadelphia (Rom. 16:21) and the Apostle John appointed Demetrius as a leader to the Church of Philadelphia later.
Laodicea received the Gospel while Apostle Paul was ministering in Ephesus. Epaphras, a collaborator of Apostle Paul, started the Church of Laodicea. (Col. 4:12-15) Along with these seven churches in Asia Minor, the church of Galatia and Colossae in Asia Minor were planted through the Apostle Paul’s labor.
Such as I have named above, all the major cities in Asia Minor were reached through apostles and post-apostolic leaders who were the fellow workers of Apostle Paul. And Asia Minor became the center of apostolic and post-apostolic Missions. Ephesus had become the most important city of apostolic and post-apostolic mission in Asia Minor by the second half of the second century.
After the Apostle John ministered for several months in Ephesus from 80 A.D., he was captured and taken to Rome and later exiled to the island of Patmos. It was at Patmos that he wrote the Book of Revelations. And so the words of God, and testimony to the seven churches of Asia Minor, was the key to the Book of Revelation.
John was released after 18 months in exile in the island of Patmos and returned to Ephesus, where he wrote the Gospel of John. He died in Ephesus and was buried there.
Timothy and Luke, faithful fellow workers of Apostle Paul also died at Ephesus and were buried there. The martyrdom of post-apostles followed after Polycarp in Smyrna and Ignatius and thousands of servants of the Lord Jesus Christ until the Roman Empire became Christendom in the fourth century. This is why we are going to trace the apostolic footsteps in the seven churches in Asia Minor.
THE WAY OF APOSTOLIC MISSION
The paradigm of the apostolic way of mission was totally different from the mission of Christendom
- The apostolic mission originated from the persecuted people and scattered people from their homeland because of brutal persecution.
- The apostolic mission was from the powerless and oppressed people to the great oppressive kingdom power. It was contrary to the mission from Christian nations which was done for kingdom expansion through the power of conquerors.
- The apostolic team of missions was composed of team members from interracial and intercultural backgrounds from the beginning.
- The apostolic way of mission was an itinerant mission, not as a settler in one field or location.
- The apostolic mission was solely for making disciples and never attempted any project or programs for powerful institutions.
- The goal of apostolic missions was to form the Church as the believers’ community with eschatological faith.
- The Apostolic mission resulted in martyrdom, but in the end won and conquered the Roman Empire and its citizens because of the faith shown by the believers and the martyrs to the Cross.
The Essentials of Apostolic Mission
- The power of the apostolic mission originally came from the Holy Spirit to be witnesses of Jesus Christ.
- The resource of the apostolic mission was the apocalypse. The apocalyptical Book of the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, Epistles of Apostles, and the Book of Revelation which were written by the apostles were canonized as the New Testament within a century. Also included are the writings of Ignatius and Polycarps, the post-apostolic leaders who also wrote many letters to the churches in Asia Minor. All of these apocalyptical writings became the basic resources of apostolic mission.
- ’LOVE’ was the first essence of the apostolic mission. The Apostle Paul’s teaching of love is detailed and clearly reasoned in the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. According to the Apostle John’s first epistle chapter three verse sixteen, “We know love by this, that Jesus Christ laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our life for the brethren.” In the words of these two apostles we can affirm that love was the first essence of the apostolic mission.
- The second essence of the apostolic mission was to ‘be faithful until death’ which appeared in chapter 2, verse 10 on the book of Revelations.
- The third essence of the apostolic mission was “perseverance to keeping His Word” (Rev. 3:10). In the Book of Revelation of John, Apostle John also said that “I, John, your brother and fellow-partaker in the tribulation and Kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus…” (Rev. 1:9).
- The fourth essence of the apostolic mission was ‘the hope of eternal life’. The Lord also promised to give ‘the crown of righteousness.’ to those who are faithful (2 Tim. 4:8).
- The Lord Jesus Christ said and promised to the apostles that for those who kept His Word, He would open the heavens and bring them up in rapture. The Apostle John had looked “a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes and then cry out with a loud voice. This was the final object of the apostle’s mission?” (2nd Tim. 4:8; Rev. 7:9).
LET US SUCCEED IN RESTORING THE APOSTOLIC WAY OF MISSION IN THE 21ST CENTURY
- The Apostolic paradigm of mission completely shifted after the Roman Empire became Christianized. The Conquests and the expansion of Christianity in the name of the emperors and popes became the way since the emperor Constantine started it. The paradigm of the missions was that of a powerful state church and became the institutional hierarchical Church. The main forces were monks, conquistadors and crusaders.
- Through the Reformation, the paradigm of mission shifted back to the Scripture away from the hierarchies of the church. The Bible was translated to every language and the Gospel became the power of salvation for everyone who believed. (Romans 1:16)
- The Protestant missions came with the Colonial era and the paradigm of mission in the colonial world made life better and civilized. The goal was the evangelization of the heathen world. The hindrance in this era was in the exploitations done by colonial authorities and missionaries that come along with western colonialism.
- The contemporary western mission forces began to debate between Liberals and Biblicals; Evangelicals, and Ecumenicals in the post-World War II era, Evangelical forces were separated from the ecumenical trends. Evangelical declarations on Christian Mission were issued since the Wheaton Declaration in 1966, Frankfurt Declaration in 1970, Lausanne Covenant in 1974.
- From the 1960’s, the new forces of mission emerged from the decolonized newly independent countries in Asia. These new forces of Missions joined hands with western evangelical mission forces to oppose the socio-political actions of the liberal ecumenical forces of mission.
- This new force grew explosively after the 70s, and in 2000 A.D., the number of new mission forces from non-western nations exceeded the numbers of western mission forces.
- In the 21st century, the first century of the third millennium, the paradigm of mission shifted from the western paradigm of mission. This paradigm of mission of newly emerging non-western missions was totally separated from the missions of western Christianity. Our Asian countries are generally anti-Christian multi-religious nations. We were oppressed and persecuted for a long time because of our Christian faith. And we are powerless and poorer people. Our circumstances are similar to the apostolic and post-apostolic era in the first and second centuries.
- These similarities give us wisdom on how to succeed and restore the apostolic way of mission to the mission paradigm in the 21st century. We should not imitate the traditional western way of missions that misled us and given us so many stumbling blocks. We must return to apostolic way of mission and follow that pattern to succeed the way of apostolic mission in our way. Let us restore the apostolic way of mission in the 21st Century Mission.
- To succeed in the way of apostolic mission, we have to set ourselves apart from all the modern methodologies which was adapted from secular science and technologies and return to apocalyptic and historical apostolic and post-apostolic patterns of mission.
- To restore the apostolic mission, we have to set ourselves apart from the traditional, Institutionalized, and hierarchical church order to apostolic simple order of church as the believers’ fellowship with the house church system. We should not attempt developmental and worldly projects in our ministries in the mission field. Our objectives and goals of mission should be a totally eschatological approach.
May the Lord of our great leader of mission be with us all forever and ever.
David J. Cho
Dr. David Dongjin Cho was the Founding President of the East-West Center for Missions Research & Development.
In his passion to serve God in missions, he also founded Korea International Mission, Asia Missions Association, Third World Missions Association, and EZRA Movement for North Korea.
He also initiated that AMA would publish an official bulletin Asian Missions Advance to inspire, encourage and inform missionaries, mission leaders and mission schools on current trends in missions. Dr. David J. Cho dedicated his life to serve the Lord in missions for more than 50 years.