Church Planting: a temporal picture of God’s eternal mission, pt. 3

Read Acts 13:2-52

The local congregation was dedicated to fasting and ministering to the Lord. This was a regular part of their worship. The Holy Spirit directed, not only the elders but the whole of the congregation, to set apart Barnabas and Saul do the work they were called to (planting churches just as the church at Antioch had been planted). Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the Holy Spirit and they would be faithful in their labor.

The church at Antioch sent out missionaries to plant churches while it was only itself a few years old. What we will see is that during Paul’s missionary journeys, the method looked the same as did the method that produced the thriving congregation at Antioch. They would begin with a proclamation of the Gospel, believers would be produced, they would begin gathering together, and elders would be produced from within the local body (not brought in from the outside as employees).

Again, God is raising a people for Himself. He is the one who builds His church. He is the one who sends church planters. He is the one who raises up elders from the midst of the people. So, God’s dynamic in the local church works to promote His own glory, not that of the elder or pastor personalities.

Here I must add a note about my own calling. I was never interested in church planting. It seems as though God has divinely orchestrated the events of my life in such a way that I have a heart to raise up pastors, and that I have a vision to see churches planted that will continuously raise up elders and see other churches planted for the sake of the Gospel. I have a desire to see the local church become more than a concert venue. I desire to see the local church, once again, pursuing the glory of God and His eternal mission. My desire is to see churches planted (not mere campuses of a personality-driven church), who are participating in God’s eternal mission. God’s kingdom is bigger than the kingdom of any local body of believers. God leads us precisely where He wants us to be for His glory. He even worked together the persecution of the believers in Jerusalem so that there would be a church in Antioch. There were local congregations in every major city in the Roman world as a result of God’s work through the church at Antioch.

v. 5

When Barnabas and Saul reached a new area, they began with preaching the Gospel. They would preach the Gospel in places where people would hear. So, when it comes to evangelism, the message must be preached where people who have not yet responded to the Gospel will hear. It is not sufficient to preach only in churches. The message must be heard, so we must preach to people where they are at. This is how we participate with God as He builds His church.

v. 6-12

There will always be hardships and many of those hardships will come as a result of the religiosity that is already established in an area. We have a responsibility to preach the true Gospel and to address any false teaching/religiosity that might stand in the way of the true Gospel. This is not an easy work. It is God’s work and He chooses to do this work through the preaching of His word.

v. 13- 43

Barnabas and Saul continued sharing the Gospel. That was their work. They explained that God is the one who has been working all things together. Through the Jews came the Messiah. They urged people to believe in Jesus Christ, not in the name of some new church plant or in a human spiritual leader or in the elders; in Christ alone.

v. 44- 52

Many Gentiles started to show up to hear the preaching and the Jews became jealous, even driving Barnabas and Saul out of Pisidian Antioch (not their home city, a different Antioch). When the Gospel succeeds (and it does), those who are lost in their religiosity often become jealous. Our objective is to endure this jealousy for the sake of the Gospel, not responding in kind. We must love our neighbors. Our attitude toward other churches in the area, whether genuine or not, is the attitude of the suffering servant. That is the example that Jesus set for us. That was the attitude of Barnabas and Saul while they were still in the city. We must always preach a genuine Gospel with great boldness, taking every opportunity to be around sinners (both religious and nonreligious), so that we can participate well in God’s eternal mission. Again, we must decrease as Christ increases. We are involved in something greater than us, by the grace of God alone.

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