On the mount of ascension, Jesus commissioned His disciples, His church, to be outwardly focused. “Go ... make disciples... baptizing them... teaching them!” (Matthew 28:19-20). “...be my witnesses in Jerusalem ... and to the ends of the earth!” (Acts 1:8).
Jesus could have established a monastery on the mountain. He might have said, “Stay!” but He said, “Go!” He might have given Peter and John license to build their own empire. “Hey fellas, stay in Jerusalem and establish your very own mega-ministry!” Jesus didn’t commission His church to be enterprising empire builders, but world-wide kingdom builders.
Jesus commanded His church to gather for worship and discipleship, and to scatter for outreaching evangelism. Antioch did as Jesus commanded. “Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they were 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 13:1–3).
In Antioch, the church gathered for discipleship. The disciples grew under the teaching of gifted and Godly leader. They also gathered for worship. “As they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit” revealed His plan. They worshipped so fervently, so passionately, so enthusiastically that they didn’t take time to eat. They fasted. They sacrificed their physical appetites in order to satisfy they spiritual hunger.
The gathered church became the scattered church when the Holy Spirit said, “I choose Barnabas and Saul! Send them out with the Good News, the Gospel. Send them and support them as they go to the ends of the earth.”
International missions was not the brain-child of a gifted advertising executive. Don’t give credit to Barnabas. This had never happened before, so Antioch didn’t jump on the bandwagon with other dynamic churches. God’s Holy Spirit initiated something new as He reminded them of their Great Commission. “Go” ... “be my witnesses ... to the ends of the earth!”
“They laid their hands on them” (Acts 13:3). I can envision Saul and Barnabas on their knees with church members pressed in around them, each with an outstretched hand on their head or shoulder. I can almost hear members of the church praying aloud, beseeching God for a bountiful harvest of souls, for His provision and protection, for His guidance and wisdom. When the church finally said, “Amen!” the prayers didn’t cease. The church continually prayed for their missionaries until they finally returned a couple of years later.
The church at Antioch is a model church. They were effective in every area: discipleship, worship, ministry, and missions.
“Oh, Holy Lord God! May churches in our land prayerfully seek to imitate Antioch’s Godly example! Oh, Almighty King Jesus, for your glory, help our church become a model church!
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.