Working from a base
Did Paul confine his personal ministry during that time to the city of Ephesus, or did he make short visits to other cities nearby? Luke does not tell us, nor is it necessary for us to know. It is, of course, possible that Paul himself did make brief trips into the province, but there is nothing to confirm the suggestion.
How then were the churches in Asia founded? Two possibilities are open. Paul had many fellow workers who came and went constantly. Some of these were probably with him in Ephesus.
If so, he doubtless sent them to the outlying cities and towns while he supervised the total operation from the capital. In the second place, Ephesus would attract a large number of merchants, officials, soldiers, and others from the surrounding territory. Many of these would have heard the Word from Paul in the hall of Tyrannus, and on their return home they would have carried the gospel with them. In time churches sprang up in all parts of the province. This is church planting by multiplication, not by addition.
That the above is not altogether conjecture can be seen by a glance at Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians. Colossae, just ninety miles east of Ephesus, had a church. Two of its leaders are identified by name, Epaphras and Tychicus. Epaphras was a native of Colossae and the founder of the work there (Col 1:7). He became one of Paul’s fellow workers.
But Paul had never been to Colossae (Col 2:1). How then did they meet? If Paul didn’t go to Colossae, Epaphras must have gone to Ephesus. The suggestion is not only intriguing but highly probable. On his return home he went to work and started a church there.
J. Herbert Kane, Christian Missions in Biblical Perspective