The Antioch Church has been the model for missions movements, church planting and urban reconciliation for almost 2,000 years. The following principles show why this church is the model church rather than the Jerusalem Church. The purpose of sharing this message today is so that our church can look toward the Antioch Church as a model to aspire toward and imitate.
I. The Antioch Church was an inclusive church that was born out of persecution (Acts 11:20)
1. Often people who are the victims of persecution and are experienced in the ways of suffering are a more broad and broken people ready and willing to go out of their cultural box to welcome and love others (as opposed to the homogeneous model of the Jerusalem Church).
We want to be a church that weeps with those who weep, mourns with those who mourn, who bears burdens with others and identifies with the pain and suffering of others while we practice compassion.
Jesus had to touch the leper, who was a social outcast, before He could heal him.
We live in a broken society. We, as broken people, need to say to our neighbors that we are a community of people in the process of healing and spiritual transformation. We should not take the approach that we are a righteous community that is better than the rest of the world, telling everyone how to live correctly.
David said that God enlarged him when he was in distress (Psalm 4:1). So in our brokenness and pain, we as the people of faith grow spiritually in God’s grace which enables us to be wounded healers like our Savior.
2. There is the real and the ideal. Often those experienced in suffering have more compassion and really know what it is like for God to love them unconditionally.
II. The word over the Antioch Church was purpose, which transcends earthly and material possessions, money and concerns (Acts 11:23)
1. An apostolic church emphasizes God’s Kingdom purpose rather than material possessions, convenience or comfort. They know there is more to life than just material possessions and earthy pleasure; there is the joy of walking in divine purpose that comes by obedience to the call of God and living for the sake of others instead of a self-centered existence.
2. Often people go by the voices of others or by their own feelings and circumstances. But God has called His people to go by His purpose for their lives as their ultimate guide.
3. God’s Kingdom purpose is always corporate purpose. That is to say, our individual purpose will never be fulfilled unless it is attached to a local church.
III. The Antioch Church had emerging fivefold ministry gifts (Acts 13:1)
1. They had prophets and teachers; no reference is made to apostles, pastors or evangelists. Thus I believe this was an emerging leadership. We are a church that is continually encouraging the development of emerging leaders.
2. Barnabas and Saul became apostles after they were sent out and continued to mature.
3. There was evidently some kind of discipleship process in which servant leaders were continually raised up. In Acts 11:26 the whole church was taught, implying there was some personal process of mentoring. Cell groups or house meetings were common in those days, which would make sense because their leadership model was the Jerusalem Church which taught house-to-house (see Acts 2:46).
IV. The leadership and congregation of the Antioch Church was multi-ethnic (Acts 13:2)
The Jerusalem Church was multi-lingual and multi-ethnic but was not trans-cultural because they never reached out beyond Judaism. The Antioch Church modeled ethnic reconciliation. In Antioch there were five walls that divided the ethnic groups of the city. Believers in this church would scale these walls to attend church.
Believers today still need to be intentional and scale the walls that divide us from our ethnically or economically different brothers and sisters. A culture based on Christ should always trump our individual and family cultures.
Sometimes people are turned off to the gospel because we manifest our particular culture or charismatic weirdness in our preaching and/or the way we do church more than the pure gospel message of Christ. Jesus said the word of God is made of no effect by our traditions or culture (Mark 7:13-14).
V. The leadership of the Antioch Church was vocationally diverse (Acts 13:2)
Barnabas was into real estate; Saul was a religious leader; Manaen was a politician. Scripture teaches that it takes more than a religious leader to transform a culture or nation. (The books of Esther, Nehemiah, Ezra, and Daniel demonstrate this.) We need to see an Antiochian church model that trains and releases believers in the business, political and religious spheres of society to proclaim the Kingdom of God.
VI. The Antioch Church was connected to God’s presence
1. They regularly ministered to the Lord. Today’s congregations only come to God to receive from the Lord instead of ministering to the Lord. If we would learn to minister to the Lord then He would minister back to us beyond measure (Psalm 37:4).
2. They heard from the Lord regarding mission and purpose. People who minister to the Lord regularly will not live vain lives that focus on trivial things. Many people just want to hear from the Lord regarding their own personal issues!
VII. The Antioch Church was a sending church
1. They understood and preached corporate mission and corporate destiny!
2. Their members and leaders followed apostolic protocol in regards to their ministry. In our day, most just “went” instead of being sent, which is the reason why there are so many dysfunctional pastors and churches in this nation!
3. Today many churches are started by self-appointed and self-ordained people who begin ministries without being under proper spiritual authority, which makes them illegitimate in the Kingdom.
4. When a church starts with a faulty foundation it is building on a house of sand.
5. We have a famous church from Australia who recently came to New York City and launched a church with hundreds of people from other churches they got from doing Sunday night concerts (a service time that most other churches don’t have).
Also, a pastor I know started a church based on the struggles of the churches in his area and even sent out recruiting letters to members of other churches saying, “I know you are hurting and need hope in your life…”
If I wanted to start a church I wouldn’t advertise on Christian radio, Christian television or Christian newspapers because I would be attracting disloyal, disgruntled or disconnected folks from other congregations. Thus, I would not have a real church or ekklesia but just a spiritual gathering!
6. Most people leave a church because they were offended, not because they were sent by the Holy Ghost! Or they leave because they are following their friend or a faddish style or a celebrity church that gives them a sense of status and of feeling important.
VIII. The Antioch Church was benevolent and gave to other ministries and churches (Acts 11:29)
1. A people who understand pain are also a people who empathize with the needs of others. This results in being moved by compassion to give of time and finances to others.
2. Taking care of widows, orphans and empowering the poor or disadvantaged is dear to God’s heart as we read the Old Testament prophets.
3. One of the main reasons why God has blessed and provided for our church is because of the Children of the City programs that we sponsor.
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