Becoming a Powerful Church, Part 2
As I continue to pray for God to raise up Antioch churches in IGRC, I am excited by the stories of life transformation that I hear. God is at work in a variety of places, bringing new life and new hope.
But a truly powerful church is seen not only in the way individual lives are being transformed. In the church at Antioch “the evidence of the grace of God” was also real in how they gave to and for others.
When a prophet predicted that a famine would spread over the entire Roman world, the first response of the people was to give according to their ability to provide for followers of Christ in Judea (Acts 11:27-30). Such a prediction could have caused fear about their own future, leading them to hoard their resources, but it didn’t. Instead, they responded by giving to others beyond their community.
They didn’t only give of their financial resources though. They gave wisdom to the wider church.
When people came from Judea teaching that all believers needed to be circumcised, they had several options. They could have accepted what they were told and acted accordingly. They could have decided that they weren’t going to follow the teaching and therefore they were going to ignore the church of Judea and launch out on their own.
Instead, they chose to challenge the status quo, take the issue to the “mother church” in Jerusalem, and offer their insights. Because they chose to open the conversation, they had a major impact on the practice of the wider church. Their wisdom and insight changed the approach of the universal church (Acts 15).
But maybe the greatest gift of the church at Antioch was the gift of people. They were a young church. When persecution started in Jerusalem with the martyrdom of Stephen, believers scattered. When it was reported that Gentiles were coming to faith in Antioch, Barnabas was sent to check things out. He and
Saul provided teaching and leadership for the new believers (Acts 11:22-26).
And even though Barnabas and Saul had been so instrumental in forming this young church, in the midst of a time of prayer and fasting the prophets and teachers of Antioch, responding to God’s call, chose to send Barnabas and Saul to reach new people and start new churches in other places (Acts 13:1-3).
It would have been easy for the church to say, “We still really need their leadership.” They chose instead to give away the gifted evangelists and teachers in order for the kingdom of God to expand in other places.
How is your church like the church in Antioch? Does your church willingly give financial resources to meet the needs of those far beyond your church and your community? Does your church share wisdom and insight with the wider church? Does your church willingly send your very best people to increase the impact of the kingdom of God?
What steps will you take as you seek to be a powerful church?