Antioch: The Sending Church (Acts 13:1-3)
Luke recorded Paul’s first missionary journey in Acts 13-14. A pattern of activities occurred in each of the Gentile areas that Paul enters. Let’s examine this pattern and note the dissimilarities. We first get to see how God does a good work in a local church by calling forth missionaries.
What does a Spirit-sensitive church need?
Some people assert that prophets are no longer needed in the modern church since we now have the Bible in its complete form. The problem with this absolute ruling is that the Lord used prophets for things that the Bible doesn’t do in its complete form. Note how the Spirit spoke about specific guidance, “The Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
If this is the model of a Spirit led church, we should note that though sisters participated, they were not at the forefront of the scene. This was true of Jesus’ ministry too. Is the increasingly sister-led church in the West mean something is in disarray in the church?
Does she have reputable and Godsensitive leaders?
We might think our team leadership concept is something new. Definitely not. There could not be a more diverse leadership team as this one. This was not just true because Simeon was black (should we call him Afro-Syrian?) or that Barnabas was from Cyprus, Lucius from Cyrene in Northern Africa or Paul who was born in Tarsus but raised in Jerusalem. They also had a diverse range of gifts.
I wonder how many of our churches could boast of their prophets and teachers? Luke didn’t mention that Barnabas and Saul were also apostles. Interestingly, Luke didn’t mention any pastors there. We shouldn’t be so scared of having prophets in our churches. The New Testament has them and will later show us a false prophet. We need to discern the accuracy of their message but not totally reject their existence. Our churches have cut their full inheritance off by simply ‘not believing’ anymore in prophets.
Does her leaders fast and pray?
A supposedly reliable survey states that 80% of pastors pray less than 15 minutes a day. This sure is different than what we see here in Antioch. Prayer is the foundation through which missions is born. If leaders don’t pray, the congregation will hardly pray. If pastors don’t pray, one can be sure that they do not fast.
The key is to recognize that any crucial ministry is an outgrowth with a special time spent with the Lord. (See John 15 to find out what Jesus says about this.)
Does she have a growing number of Christians?
We see the church growing here. This was not just through persecution but active evangelism. Many churches no longer evangelize. They seal their tombs with their living bodies inside.
Does she send out missionaries?
Many churches do not send out their own missionaries. Even fewer churches send out missionaries into unreached areas. We have some excellent exceptions to this but overall we see a dramatic decline of numbers of missionaries being sent out from churches in the West.
Is our local church a Spiritsensitive church?
We need to return to the question about our own home church. Are we Spirit-sensitive? We have gone far to overboard with this seeker-sensitive style of church. Of course we need to be kind and friendly to non-Christians that want to come. But we need to prefer real preaching from God’s Word over being afraid that they might not be able to find the Bible passage. The Antioch church was Spirit-Sensitive. She was before the Lord seeking His purposes.
Ministering to the Lord and fasting
I love to see this team of leaders ‘ministering’ to the Lord. Most Christians probably do not have any clue to what this means. We know of ministry to others but never realize that ministry includes prolonged times of prayer and praise before the Lord. They were delighting themselves in Christ.
What a contrast to most church leadership teams. Most churches have one leader over all. We need to focus on group leadership. I like the trend where more Baptist churches are having elders. But how many church leaders do you see on a retreat together seeking the Lord in prolonged times of prayer and fasting? We have really cut ourselves from God with our prayerlessness.
Of course, with any sense of bitterness or rivalry between leaders, they will not pray in the Spirit. It is time for the church leaders to focus on the Head of the church and come before Him in prayer together. They need to wait upon Him rather than just dictate what they want to do. It is in this context that they heard the Spirit speak.
Significance of prophets and Spirit speaking
Many Christians too quickly dismiss the possibility of prophets or the Spirit speaking. Is there any connection to these Christians unwillingness to spend prolonged times in prayer seeking God’s will? Perhaps. But even still, there is no biblical instruction that tells us to dismiss the relevancy of prophets or of the Spirit’s ability to speak to later generations of Christians.
There only exists the ‘logical’ argument that 'since we have the full revelation of God in God’s word (the canon), we no longer need extra-revelatory instruction.' This is a sad anti-logical conclusion. This logical argument can easily be dismissed by noticing what the Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Do you notice how specific this instruction is? We will not find such instruction in the Bible for those who lived after the time the Bible was written. It is quite clear we still need to hear the Spirit speak. Even more, we need God’s people to be listening!
Significance of laying on of hands
Laying on of hands simply shows a willingness to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to especially anoint these men for God’s special work. How much of it is a symbol and how much is it really distributing God’s Spirit to another? They thought it was more than symbolism, and we ought to think the same. They did not have a tradition as we do in many of our churches which dictate ceremony. There are truths behind the ceremony.
We are excited about this leadership team. No wonder God does wonders through this church. Now if only we again believed that God wanted and could do great things through our church. Our church would begin to position itself to serve her Lord and do all she could to listen to what Christ wanted. Go to the Next Stop!