Sam has been married to Louise since 1988 and they have three adult children; Victoria, Matthew and James. They have been involved with Postal Bible School all their lives, but in the past 20 years have coordinated a centre in Northern Ireland. In 2006 Sam and Louise left secular employment and now serve the Lord full time in three areas of ministry – Bible Educational Services, Fermanagh Christian Fellowship and Sow2reap Trust. Sam travels extensively to encourage and train Bibletime users across the world.
In this blog, let us think about how our strategies in mission compare with the early church in Acts. Here are two passages from Acts which we’ll consider.
Acts 11: 19-30
19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed travelled 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.
Acts 13: 1-3
1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
This church was composed of a very mixed group of people. In verses 19 and 20 of Acts 11, we read of a very mixed group of individuals turning to the Lord. In mission today, both at home and abroad, as we reach out into our communities with the gospel we are seeking to reach into an ever-increasing multi-cultural society.
– Challenge: What are we doing to effectively communicate the love of Christ in an ever-changing cultural landscape?
Diversity and unity in church is something precious and yet rarely fully experienced. Some local churches now have members from a variety of backgrounds: cultural, social, political and religious. Rising to the challenge this brings is not always easy.
– Challenge: We need to overcome our preconceived prejudice and fully realise that our ultimate common platform is our identity in Christ Jesus and our future is reigning with Him. In Acts 11, verses 20 and 21, we see Jews and Gentiles one in Christ – what a beautiful picture of the gospel at work!
When Barnabas visited Antioch from Jerusalem it is interesting to note what he saw. He observed the “grace of God” at work in the lives of this young church. As we visit our own church and others what do we look for?
– Challenge: Let’s look for the positive signs of God’s amazing grace changing lives and do as Barnabas did; rejoice and be an encouragement to the believers, encouraging them to stay true to the Lord.
Discipleship was paramount in Barnabas’ mind. He, along with Paul, stayed with the church and for a year they taught the Christians in Antioch.
– Challenge: Let’s ask ourselves the question, ‘Is our church teaching program comprehensive and engaging enough to enable teachers to move on after a year?’
This church had a heart for practical help for their brothers and sisters. Hearing of the need in Judea, as each was able, they gave to meet the practical needs of the believers in Judea. We have seen this being exemplified many local churches around the world, in the past and presently. The generosity of the Lord’s people is ofttimes incredible, meeting real needs of believers around the globe, for example, personal financial needs, medical needs, clothing and nutritional needs, transportation and building needs, education and literature provision, famine, flood and other disasters support – the list goes on. Examples of this is a true testimony to Christianity and the love of Christ in our hearts.
– Challenge: Are we continuing to be a local church that helps and assists in practical matters? As was once said ‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’
In the beginning of Acts chapter 13, the leadership are seen to be as diverse as the congregation. Even with this challenge they display unity in purpose. While they worshipped and waited on the Lord in an attitude of fasting, their hearts and minds were Holy Spirit sensitive and when they heard from Him it resulted in obedience to His voice.
– Challenge: How the church needs leaders who are spiritual and in tune with the Holy Spirit!
As a church seeking to fulfil the Great Commission, the outcome of this encounter cost them sacrificially as a church. They, in obedience to the Holy Spirit, set apart and sent out two of their best men from the church. It seems they did so without hesitation, but with confirmation and affirmation, as they once again fasted and prayed. Here we have a young church with a global vision to reach the lost for Christ. In their obedience, Barnabas and Paul go off on a missionary journey with the support, blessing and help of the church at Antioch.
– Challenge: Are we sending, supporting and encouraging those who the Holy Spirit has set apart to share the Gospel at home and abroad?