How do we measure a man? Brains and brawn? The number of digits in his paycheck? His expensive car or his expansive home?
How do we measure a church? Buildings and budgets? The number of suits in the seats? Antioch might help us answer this quandary.
Antioch is the New Testament’s premiere church! In my humble opinion, Antioch (not Jerusalem) is the model church. Let me make my case...
Antioch was an evangelistic church where the Gospel was preached to the nations. “Those who had been scattered as a result of the persecution that started because of Stephen made their way as far as ... Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, proclaiming the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:19–21).
Antioch was a church that discipled its members, teaching them foundational Biblical truths, doctrines and theology. Gospel education was so important that Barnabas “went to Tarsus to search for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught large numbers” (Acts 11:25–26).
Antioch was a selfless church that sacrificed to meet the needs of those beyond their borders. When a famine ravaged the regions around Jerusalem and Judea, the church at Antioch worked fast to meet their needs. “Each of the disciples, according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brothers and sisters who lived in Judea. They did this, sending it to the elders by means of Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 11:27–30).
Antioch was an outwardly-focused, mission-minded, missionary-sending church. “As (the church at Antioch was) worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off” (Acts 13:2–3). Thus, Antioch became the first New Testament church to be involved in international missions. Saul, later called Paul, and his companion Barnabas, were commissioned and supported by the congregation in Antioch.
A church’s greatness is certainly not measured by the square-footage of its auditorium, the number of baby-beds in the nursery, or the number of desks in the office. When we stand at the judgment-seat, God’s not going to ask us how bright our light-show was on Sunday morning or how many parking spots were in our lot.
Evangelism, discipleship, ministry, and missions: these are the fundamental functions of a church and the characteristics with which one gages a church’s Gospel greatness.
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.