HOW BIG IS YOUR CHURCH?
Lord, thank You for church growth.
Read Acts 11:19–30
The Church in Antioch
19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Imagine yourself in a gathering of the worldwide church, praising God through many languages with music, dance, and ceremony.
Our focus returns to the diaspora following the martyrdom of Stephen. Like ripples on a lake, the church spreads outward through Asia Minor, on the mainland and the islands, to Jews and to Greeks, growing significantly in numbers. Responsibility toward these young congregations is assumed by the mother church in Jerusalem. Barnabas is sent to Antioch, the third largest city in the Roman Empire, and under his ministry the church flourishes to such an extent that he invites Saul to join him. The two spend a whole year teaching and encouraging, developing a regional center for the church beyond Judea and establishing Saul as a key leader.
Then the momentum is reversed. The young congregations are encouraged to assume a responsibility toward the mother church, a financial responsibility, as news of an imminent famine in Judea is disclosed. Just as within any family, there is reciprocal support among the generations, so the whole church in Asia Minor responds to the need in Judea.
Nowadays, many Christians regard the mother church as essentially UK and US based. These more affluent western congregations are urged to send finances and other practical resources to those in what is still termed the ‘developing world’. Yet God’s initiative is far broader, far more dynamic, far more imaginative than this. Teaching on evangelism, spiritual gifts, suffering and leadership has evolved through the experience of those living out their faith in multicultural, multilingual, multi-faith communities throughout the world. As immigration changes the composition of the western world, there is much for the mother church to learn. We may be pleasantly surprised by such a reciprocal relationship.
Find a congregation that serves a different ethnic group from your own. Share worship with them one Sunday (or even Saturday).
Lord, give us qualified teachers to edify Your saints as we all grow in the knowledge of Your Word.