Here at Midtown, we are all about the mission of God. We want, in word and deed, to bless our city. We want to serve and push back darkness wherever it is found and we want people to meet Jesus. Unapologetically, we believe that He is better than everything and we want people to place their faith in Him. For the remainder of our sermons leading into the fall, we are focusing on development when it comes to mission—specifically our responsibility to introduce Jesus to the people God has placed around us. We want to learn from how churches got started in Acts and apply these principles to our church and our LifeGroups.
The Church in Antioch: Acts 11:19-30
19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists[a] also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. 27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers[b] living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
How can we be more like “them”?
1. They took responsibility for the mission
The Christians in Antioch continually took responsibility and were willing to sacrifice for the mission of God. They didn’t get their names in the Bible. They got no credit. They were called “some of them.” Yet their faithfulness caused us to all be referred to as Christians for the rest of history. They jump-started the entire gospel spreading to all of western civilization by sending out Paul. Their reward was in heaven. Jesus called their name and that was enough for them.
We are invited to take responsibility in our LifeGroups and in our neighborhoods. We should not wait on someone else to call us into it or get us going. We must take responsibility for our neighbors. We are responsible for them hearing who Jesus is and what He’s done for them.
2. They understood providence
All of creation is under God’s sovereign guidance and control. Circumstances don’t dictate faithfulness. These people were not in Antioch on purpose; they had been scattered because of persecution. But they knew that God places us on purpose even when we don’t. And Barnabas encouraged them to “remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose.” The word for “remain faithful” means stick or abide.
As followers of Jesus, we now have a “why” underneath the normal “why.” We live in the neighborhoods we live in, have the jobs we have, and participate in the activities we do because God intends to work through us to reach people. God intends to bless our efforts and use us in spite of our unfavorable circumstances. Sometimes our circumstances are opportunities.
3. Took Jesus at His word…that He was with them
God saves people. We don’t save people. We don’t change hearts or minds. We don’t change people’s allegiances. We don’t cause people to worship God or to see how amazing He is. It is the hand of the Lord that moves, stirs, awakens, and enlivens.
We desire for our church to be marked by the fact that the hand of the Lord is with us. We want to see and know that God is doing things here and we want others to see and know that as well. This is what matters.