Mike Gerhardt, 01-02-20, Scenes from Acts, Acts 13:1-3. Every so often we need to be reminded of what is the church. Decades ago, when I was single, I prided myself on having house plants. I had several: a robust rubber plant, a Schefflera tree, a Ficus tree, a few African violets, & some small flowering cactuses. My 3 roommates emptied beer cans, leftover liquids, and extinguished cigarettes into their pots. Yet they flourished in spite of the abuse. Then college was over, & I moved the plants into my own apartment, finally away from the torture of my roommates. Then one by one the plants lost their leaves & died. I could never figure out what happened. Such might be the case with church plants. That is beginning a church where there is no church. In the first century, the church of Jesus Christ was brand new. Their holy huddle in Jerusalem was broken up with the Stoning of Stephen and the beheading of James. The persecution was fierce and most of the 9,000 disciples scattered to other regions. Peter traveled to visit these new church plants born out of persecution. There were no manuals, training guides or seminaries to learn how to grow and keep alive your church plant. And yet the church plants grew in spite of persecution or maybe because of it!!
The church, Ekklesia - the called-out ones, at Antioch was the base of operation for Saul’s ministry. Later on, Saul changed his Jewish name to Paul the Greek form. Jerusalem was still the mother church, but the missionary church was Antioch (near the city of Antakya, Turkey on the Orontes River). I tell you this detail, so you know we are speaking about real people and places. Peter and Jerusalem were no longer the focus in the book of Acts; the missionary work of Paul took over. First, Know the difference between doing (playing) church and being the church, We have these banners in our church which proclaim Be the Church, Connect, Grow, Serve and Reach. We need God moving, Spirit-filled worship, and miraculous evangelism on all levels of church life. Not just the Sunday big event but being the church 24/7/365 days a year. The diversity of the leaders at Antioch shows the cosmopolitan nature of the church. Barnabas was a Jew from Cyprus. Simeon was a Jew, but his Latin nickname Niger not only indicates he had a dark complexion but also that he moved in Roman circles (some say he could be the Simon of Cyrene who carried Christ’s cross Mark 15:21). Lucius was from Cyrene in North Africa. Manaen had high contacts for he had been reared with Herod Antipas, who beheaded John the Baptist and who treated the Lord so shamefully at His trial. And Saul, who became Paul a Jew trained in Rabbinical schools. Despite their backgrounds, these men functioned as one. There was ONLY one church in Antioch. Today we have several churches to choose from with different styles and flavors. Perhaps Barnabas is first because he was the delegate from Jerusalem. 13:2, The Holy Spirit said, this could be disconcerting. Evidently God made His will known by means of the prophets in the church. Often in Acts, the Holy Spirit gave directives to God’s leaders 8:29; 10:19; 13:4. Here He directed the five, while they were worshiping and fasting, to set apart for Him Barnabas and Saul. Again, the principle of going out two by two, men working together is underscored. The verb set apart (aphorizō) is used three times in Saul’s life: at his birth, he was set apart to God Gal. 1:15; at his conversion, he was set apart for the gospel Rom. 1:1; & in Antioch, he was set apart for service Acts 13:2.
Second, Realize that slogans & core values spoken & memorized help encourage direction and purpose but do not do the work of ministry. Three questions to determine your personal core values: what do I get passionate about when it comes to God's Kingdom? How do I spend my time and money on these Kingdom goals? What do I want to be known for when it comes to my dedication to the Lord and His Kingdom? These questions could be asked corporately.
Some favorite church slogans: Being fishers of men, we only clean the fish AFTER they are brought into the boat. Living the truth inside out. Remove the doors of the church and then tear down the walls. Lost people matter to God; he wants them found. Know the King and serve His Kingdom.
13:3. The church leaders placed their hands on Barnabas and Saul and sent them off. The laying on of hands identified the church with their ministry and acknowledged God’s direction for them. Ananias’ identifying himself with Saul by laying hands on him in Acts 9:17. Two of the choicest were sent on this significant mission.
Third, Take spiritual warfare seriously. As a church doing the will of God, we are constantly under attack from the forces of evil, specifically Satan and His demons. Praying, which is our first work. Fasting, for breakthrough and for family and neighbors. Philippians 1:3-6. I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Fourth, Rely on the Holy Spirit constantly and consistently. Asking for the anointing, seeking God's help in simple things, sending blessing cards, writing letters to family about your faith, short prayers before and after encounters with people who are outside of a relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior. When saints have a shared vision of the Holy Spirit's work in their lives together, they will have focused energy, a common identity, a driven purpose, a contagious unity, a sustaining commitment.
Fifth, Serve His kingdom and build God's Kingdom by reaching others to populate heaven with the redeemed. We are not called to build a fortress of saints for a holy huddle to keep out those pagan people. Sometimes Christians act like they were baptized in lemon juice. Give away your best to rescue the perishing. Not just meeting the neighbors but establishing intentional relationships to win them to Jesus and bring them in the boat.
Ken Callahan in Effective Church Leadership wrote: the day of the professional minister is over; the day of the mission-minded pastor has come. The day of the churched culture is over. The day of the anti-church culture has come. The day of the local church is over. The day of the mission outpost has come. This is true here in the cold North East and mostly true elsewhere.
We are strategically situated where we are at home, in our neighborhoods, at school, in our families, at work, in the gym, and last but not least here on Eastern Boulevard to be the church of Jesus to those who need the good news. Be the church and anticipate great things fro