The birth of the church in Antioch is found in Acts 11. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, men from Cyprus and Cyrene went to Antioch where they shared the Gospel with Greeks and a great number believed. When this reached the ears of the church in Jerusalem, they sent Barnabas to check it out. The grace of God was evident and Barnabas encouraged them to remain true to the Lord. He also recruited Saul (Paul), and together they taught the disciples in Antioch for a year. The hand of the Lord was on them and this church began to live out the Gospel in three interrelated ways. They were a giving church, a sending church, and a strengthening church.
- By faith, when famine was prophesied, this church began to send financial gifts to their brothers and sisters in Judea. Out of love and concern for the wellbeing of a sister church, a pattern of cooperative giving emerges. When this church commissions Paul and Barnabas to take the Gospel to the nations, they also see the value of supporting them as missionaries. Giving was in their DNA and they passed it down, because at the formation of each new church they began to collect a benevolence gift, as well. In Paul’s epistles, we read these new churches also see themselves as partners in the harvest. They gave gifts to support Gospel driven ministry and to care for Paul’s needs. You see, Antioch modeled an important principle that took root in the early church. Together, we fulfill our collective mission by giving.
- The launch of this mission is described in Acts 13. As the church in Antioch was worshiping the Lord and fasting, they were told by the Holy Spirit to set aside Paul and Barnabas. This was the spark that began a church planting movement! Think about it. This church was seeking the Lord and listening through prayer. They were in tune with the moving of the Holy Spirit and they responded to God’s call. Their acts of obedience and faith propelled the reach of the Gospel, where they made disciples who made disciples. After each of the first 2 missionary journeys, Paul came back to report all that God was doing and Scripture records this church sent him out three times! A healthy church is a sending church and church planting is a natural part of our collective mission.
- We also see a distinct emphasis on church strengthening from Acts 14-20. Each time Antioch sent him out, Paul traveled back to encourage and exhort the disciples. The spiritual health of the churches was important to him and he spent time developing leaders to equip them for works of service. His goal was spiritual maturity, so they would stand firm in the faith. There was a network of communication among the churches and each saw the importance of strong relationships with one another. Each time a church received a letter, they passed it on to the other and they reported what God was doing. Churches strengthen churches! It’s part of our collective mission.
At Big Sky Fellowship, we have heard the Holy Spirit set me apart for this new calling and they want to partner with me. Together, we are committed to the spiritual health of our churches and they have commissioned me to this service. I also want to work with you to ENCOURAGE, EXHORT, AND EQUIP our pastors and churches. To be the most effective, we must work as a team. Let’s fan into flame the natural relationships in place and connect isolated and struggling churches with the relationships, training, coaching, and resources they need. Just like Antioch, we have a collective mission. Through the empowering of the Holy Spirit, let’s give, send, strengthen, and REPEAT.