This week in our Bible reading we will be reading about the church of Antioch and the missionary journeys of Paul and his friends. The church of Antioch plays a vital role for global missions and evangelization. Out of the church at Antioch, Paul and Barnabas are sent out on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14), Paul and Silas on their second missionary journey (Acts 15-18), then Paul on his third missionary journey (Acts 18~21). From the church of Antioch, we can learn the following four characteristics of a church that “moves with the gospel-centered missional spirituality”:
- The gospel bore fruit through ordinary Christ-followers: In chapter 11 where the inception of the church at Antioch is described, we see the significant role of unnamed Christians who start the gospel movement at Antioch: ordinary men from Cyprus and Cyrene preach the gospel to Gentiles in Antioch; ordinary disciples in Antioch minister to brothers in Judea with a special offering. As Ajith Fernando notes, “Some of the most significant work for the kingdom has been done by unknown witnesses who are obedient to Christ right where they are where they do not attract much attention.”
- The gospel fruit was evident in tangible ways: The church at Antioch was discipled by Paul and Barnabas who “taught a great many people for a whole year” (11:26). The discipleship training done by the two leaders result in good deeds of the disciples who “according to their ability” send relief to the brothers in Judea who are suffering from severe famine (11:29-30). The gospel-love experienced in Antioch moved the hands of the disciples there to bless fellow brothers in Judea. We see the gospel-love in action.
- The gospel movement was expressed in multi-ethnic leadership: Acts 13:1 lists five men who are described as “prophets and teachers”—basically leaders of the church at Antioch. It is interesting to observe that we have two Jewish leaders (Barnabas and Paul) with two African brothers from Cyrene (Simeon and Lucius), and one bourgeois Samaritan (Manaen). The church who reached out to the multi-ethnic groups had the DNA of multi-ethnicity in her leadership.
- The gospel-centered church’s mission was fueled by deep missional spirituality: Acts 13:2-4 reveals that the missionary movement was driven by deep spirituality of prayer and fasting. The missionary movement was not done by strategic planning, but fundamentally by hearing and obeying the Spirit who sends the church leaders to reach the nations with the gospel. We cannot afford to be a community that is marked by “perspiration without inspiration.” Only when we are filled with the Spirit of God, and obedient to the call of the Spirit, can we be a missional church that moves with gospel-centered missional spirituality.
During the missions month of February, as we read through the book of Acts, it is our prayer that the Spirit will grant us, and ignite in us, the passion for God’s glory to spread across all the nations.
This Week’s Bible Reading Schedule:
|Monday: Acts 10||☐||Thursday: Acts 13||☐|
|Tuesday: Acts 11||☐||Friday: Acts 14||☐|
|Wednesday: Acts 12||☐||Saturday: Acts 15||☐|