I recently came across a fascinating geographical factoid.
The writer at The Acadian Ideal overlayed the Mediterranean Sea map on top of the U.S. and suddenly the size of it became, well, visually stunning.
Which led me to thinking about the travels of the apostle Paul. It’s estimated he travelled over 10,000 miles during his life. Imagine walking from Miami, Florida to Fairbanks, Alaska…and back. The stars on the map below hit some of Paul’s rest stops. There’s good evidence he traveled as far as Spain, possibly between his imprisonments in Rome.
The early Church father Clement—whom Paul references in his Philippian letter and who became the bishop of Rome—would later write: “After he (Paul) had been seven times in chains, had been driven into exile, had been stoned and had preached in the East and in the West, he won the genuine glory for his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world and having reached the farthest limits of the West.” The “farthest limits of the West” in that context would have been Hispania—Spain. The Muratorian Canon (c. 170 AD) mentions Paul’s journey to Spain…as well as does Cyril of Jerusalem and Chrysostom. Again, looking at the map, Paul traveled multiple times from—oh, let’s say, South Carolina—to West Virginia, to Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri, then on to Nebraska, Oklahoma, and more than likely to Nevada. Without a car. Seriously. So why reference this? As we all know, pastoring today is difficult. Deeply politically-polarized churches, post-pandemic recovery, recharged culture wars, fluid mores, a consumer-driven society, and deconstruction have made shepherding uniquely challenging. But… Let’s put it into perspective. Let’s remind ourselves of Paul’s bragging in 2 Corinthians 11:
I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
I kept that passage on my desk for years. It would remind me that as frustratingly difficult as pastoring and leadership could be at any moment, I was still sitting at a desk on a comfortable chair in an air-conditioned office with a MacBook and a cellphone. Of course, context is critical. But so is perspective. Paul’s resume is an impressive reminder that sacrifice and suffering is built into our journey with Jesus and, seemingly, more so in spiritual leadership. But let’s keep our present-day challenges in perspective, shall we? Dave Workman | ELEMENTAL CHURCHES
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