Summary: This sermon calls the laity into action. The work is too great for the clergy alone. The laity must get involved, share their stories and watch God do the rest!
Subject: Church Expansion In Antioch
Introduction: The early Christian Church grew rapidly as the Holy Spirit guided it through conflict, prejudice and crisis. It seems that none of the Jews including Peter really understood that God would bring salvation to the whole world. During this time, Saul was converted and his testimony added fuel to the revival fires. Now gentiles were eagerly responding to the good news of Jesus Christ. One of most exciting events happened in Acts 10, Cornelius, as a God fearing centurion, a Roman commander and his family were saved and received the gift of the Holy Ghost. God used this event to help Peter overcome his inner prejudice and realize that God has no respector of persons, but desires to save the whole world. God reached out to Cornelius because Cornelius actively sought after God and revered God. He also had a heart for the people and he prayed continually. Cornelius was evangelistic even before he was saved. When he sent for Peter, he also sent for his family members and friends to come. When Peter arrived, they all were waiting and were willing to receive the word of the Lord.
Up to this point, the Apostles were the leading participants in the Church growth movement. The gentile church, the church at Antioch became a powerful branch of the Christian church. What does it mean to have a powerful church? What does a powerful church look like? I believe a church can be only as powerful as its laity. This text shows the power of believer amd the strength of their influence.
Ac 11:19 ¶ Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. 20 And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.
Because of the persecution, believers were scattered everywhere. While the apostles remained at Jerusalem, the church was on the move and continued to grow. How could laymen, simply believers cause the church to grow? Believers cause church growth by getting involved. If the church is going to expand and grow again, the laity must be involved.
1. The Laity must be involved- There were no apostles present. The church in Antioch did not have an Apostle working in its founding. The truth is, there was no official leadership present in any of this work. In fact, the church in Jerusalem did not even know this work was even taking place until they received word. The church in Antioch was born completely from the work of lay people. We don’t even know their names, only where they were from. The work was done because believers were willing to speak their faith. They had simple and personal conversation with people about what they believed. These believers simply went into Antioch and shared with those they met what Jesus had done in their lives. They explained the reason for their faith. These believers shared the truth about Jesus and the good news that the forgiveness of sins and the promise of salvation was available for all. If the church is going to expand and grow again, believers must be involved, secondly, they must be impartial.
2. The Laity must be impartial and share the truth with everyone – These were multiracial, multi-cultural believers from the island of Cyprus and Cyrene, a place in northern Africa. They spoke with a different accent. They were more open and willing to share the truth with everyone. The mainline Jewish Church only shared the gospel with other Jews. But the men who founded the Antioch church made no such distinction. They shared the good news of Jesus with anyone and everyone that they came into contact with. The power of God was with them and upon their work. Jesus died for all people and God’s deep desire is that everyone come to know Jesus and have a relationship with Him
Re 22:17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
If we all get involved, and share His message with everyone, we can be sure His hand will be with us. His message is Jesus saves, heals and delivers. His message is that he came and lived a sinless life, died in our place to pay our sin debt. The third day, he rose from the dead that we might justified. If the church is going to expand and grow again, we must have his hand upon us.