Last week at Lewis Center United Methodist Church, Pastor Tom continued talking about the “real life, real impact” of the church. To do so, he read Acts 11:19-30, which talks about the early church in Antioch.
The church in Antioch was established by apostles fleeing the persecution in Jerusalem. Some of those who fled preached in other places and only preached to the Jews. The apostles who went to Antioch preached to anybody. They didn’t differentiate between Jews and Gentiles or try to judge who belonged and who didn’t. In other words, they preached the good news of the salvation of Jesus Christ to everyone. A great number of people heard the good news and believed.
When the church in Jerusalem heard what was going on in Antioch, they sent Barnabas out to investigate. Barnabas, who gets very little press today, was known as a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith. He rejoiced in all the people in Antioch who had accepted Jesus. He didn’t see any reason to put restraints on them or set up rules for the church. Instead, he thought of someone who could be a pastor for them. Barnabas went to Tarsus and brought the recently converted Saul (Paul) back to Antioch. He knew the people would be good for Saul and Saul would be good for the church in Antioch.
Barnabas and Saul continued in ministry in Antioch for a year. The church continued to grow, drawing new people in every day. After a year, a prophet told of a famine coming to Judea. The people of Antioch took up an offering for these folks in Judea, even before the famine happened. I find this example of faith amazing. They sent their money, along with their pastors, back to Jerusalem. Instead of thinking about what they would be losing, they only thought about what the Holy Spirit was calling them to do.
After reading this wonderful scripture, Pastor Tom asked why the church at Antioch had such a big impact. He said they did three things. First, they gave their money – not their leftovers. Second, they gave their prayers – abandoning their sense of entitlement. Third, they gave their people – sending Barnabas and Saul back to people who needed them more than the church in Antioch.
How many churches would be willing to do all those things today? How many Christians think of themselves first and others second? How many churches would send out a pastor they love because another church needed them more?
The church in Antioch has a real impact because they lived out a real faith. Instead of what was best for themselves, they thought first about what was best for the Kingdom of God. What a blessing. And, what an example for all of us.