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The Antioch Nature

Posted by NandCard , 01 November 2013 · 1363 views

I love the story of the Antioch church, traced in Acts 11:19-23, 13:1-3 and 14:26-28. This story reveals what I call “a missionary ecclesiology.” It is a view of the nature of the church that can pulse in our congregations today - from the very beginning of new church plants to the rebirth and revitalization of older congregations. The more our churches have the Antioch nature, the greater our dynamic will be in seeing the church planted around the world.

The missionary ecclesiology pictured in Antioch’s example teaches us at least four things about God’s idea of the church:

1. The church, in its birth, is the good fruit of God’s missionary heart and plan (Acts 13.1 and 11.19-23).

The church’s very existence speaks of the power of missions in action! God moved the early church, including this one in Antioch, to relevance in its multicultural context – and even through the shock of persecution – to cross social, cultural and political barriers. In this his Spirit was at work to bring about means of the church being planted in places it did not yet exist. It is God’s missionary heart and plan that bears the fruit of the church planted, and will bring that church full-circle into his plan for the further preaching of the Gospel and planting of the church.

2. The church, as it matures, is a living resource for fulfilling God’s missionary plan (Acts 13:1-3).

Various elements of a maturing church life can be seen in the description of the Antioch congregation. They prayed and fasted regularly, had a body of gifted leaders in place, and evidenced the fullness of the Spirit. But here, these characteristics were listed, not simply as ones desirable for the “body life” of the local church, but because they were also the building blocks of launching missionary work that would result in the planting of more churches where they didn’t yet exist. The pulsing of Spirit-fed congregational life is the very resource for extending the Kingdom to places it has not yet come. We have no reason to fear that vibrant Body-life will turn the church inward if we are truly following the Lord of the Church and of the Harvest!

3. The church, in its faithfulness, is the incarnation of God’s missionary heart and plan (Acts 13.2-4).

When a church is developing in the obedient, healthy, and Spirit-led way that the Antioch church was, God will be calling believers to flesh out their missionary responsibility, and the church will respond. It is noteworthy that when the Holy Spirit singled out two men who were gifted and equipped for the calling, the whole church readily and sacrificially agreed to send them. Just as Barnabas and Paul would need to depend upon the Spirit’s leading in their missionary ministry, the Antioch church would need to depend upon the Spirit to lead them in prayerfully supporting the team and in adjusting their own local ministry to their absence.

It’s not uncommon today for young churches to feel that they are not strong enough, or cannot afford to send out workers. The Antioch model reveals that this is less a matter of the age, size or budget of a church as it is its faithfulness to trust and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit at any stage of church life.

4. The church, in its destiny, is the responsible agent for completing God’s missionary plan (Acts 13.3 and 14.26-27).

Missionaries flesh out the sending and supporting church’s response to the call of God’s missionary heart. Following the Antioch model, missionaries today will have a vibrant tie of support and accountability - of shared life, really - with their sending churches. And missionary congregations will take much more responsibility than simply directing interested young people off for training and deployment through a bland, institutionalized system. Antioch-styel churches and their sent ones will grapple together with what it will take sustain and focus the work that will help plant the church where it does not yet exist. But these responsibilities are ones that the church and its sent ones can indeed fulfill - as she pursues health and remains dependent on the leading of the Holy Spirit!

The Antioch church’s story provides an example of what happens in a church that has healthy view of the nature God intends for it. We're encouraged to celebrate the balance and synergy of an vibrant, inner-focused, Body-life nature and a passionate, outward-focused, missionary nature, of our churches. The Antioch nature – a view of church that, early and consistently through the years, heeds the call to both the “Body-life” and “missionary” natures – will again today be a dynamic key to the planting of more such churches all around the world. I want to be in a church of this nature!

  • Don Sappington and elizabethcog like this

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