Important Things to Learn From the Antioch Church Part 5
Sep 01, 2010 by Alex Mekonnen | 0 Comments
So far we’ve looked at four key features of the Antioch church that distinguishes it from the Jerusalem church—evangelism, the involvement of lay people, multiple leadership and love. Today, we are reflecting on their engagement in mission. Right from its inception, the Antioch church started by unknown and persecuted Christians who played missionary role. Luke asserts, “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks also, telling the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:19-21). We don’t know who the “men from Cyprus” are. What we know is they preached to the Greeks for the first time and the hand of the Lord was with them and “many believed and turned to the Lord.” As the result of this ministry, the gospel found home in a Gentile culture and a vibrant church started.
From our reading of Acts 13, the Antioch church is destined for a bigger purpose than its local agenda—i.e. global mission. “While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off (Acts13:2-3). Saul/Paul and Barnabas went to Salamis, Paphos, Perga in Pamphylia, then to Pisdian Antioch, Iconium, etc. Luke summed up their missionary journey by saying, “The word of the Lord spread through the whole region” (Acts 13:49).
The distance to the mission field is not as remote as we often make it to be, it is between belief and unbelief. In a post Christian West and post Western Christianity world, mission is not limited from the West to the rest. It is from everywhere to everywhere. Our unbelieving neighbors, work associates, customers, clients, fellow students, relatives, and the like are in need of salvation. If we feel “debtors” of love and grace like the apostle Paul, we cannot shut our mouth among unbelievers. Instead, we will share the good news at any cost.
God is the God of mission and he is the initiator and sustainer of mission. Jesus said; “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). God is the sender. In 1975, John R.W. Stott had come to view Johannine version of the Great Commission in John 17:18 and 20:21—to be sent as Jesus was sent—as the most crucial formulation, taking precedence over the Matthean formulation (to make disciples). Referring to John 17:18 Samuel Escobar observes, “Jesus was sent by God the Father and was God’s best missionary; the true model for Christian mission” (2003: 99). David Bosch rightly said; “Mission has its origin in the heart of God. God is a fountain of sending love. This is the deepest source of mission. It is impossible to penetrate deeper still; there is mission because God loves people” (1991:392). The question is can we afford to ignore God’s grand narrative of redemptive plan, his ultimate love for mankind, and have a spiritually healthy Christian life or church?