Summary: Let’s live on mission even when ministry is messy.
I attended a church last weekend which was filled with praise, preaching, and prayer. I liked it so much I’m going to start attending there. Perhaps you’ve heard of it…it’s called Edgewood. Because I haven’t been here for a while, on Thursday, some of the SecondWinders asked me to introduce myself. I told them I used to attend Edgewood and now I’m coming back!
I’m grateful to the deacons for allowing me to finish my sabbatical. Also, I want to thank those of you who have been supporting our family in prayer while we continue to grieve the unexpected death of my 32-year-old nephew Alex.
Two years ago, we began our “On Mission” series from the Book of Acts this fall. We’re returning to Acts and Lord willing, plan to finish by Easter. We’ll pick up the pace a bit because we’re in the heart of the narrative portion.
I’m excited to get back into Acts because in the midst of our messy world, we’re reminded our primary role is to share the gospel, make disciples, and enfold believers into reproducing churches. I appreciated what Pastor Chad said in our team time this week as we discussed the benefits of studying this groundbreaking book: “I’m glad we’re back in Acts because the context of the early church was in an entirely non-Christian world. The church did not have any clout, prestige, political capital, and was very likely viewed with suspicion. It was all completely counter cultural. Feels like we have a lot in common with the early church.”
Please open your Bibles to Acts 14.
Paul and Barnabas were set apart by the Holy Spirit and sent out by the Antioch church for their first missionary journey. Acts 13 gives the itinerary for the first part of the journey as they sailed from Antioch in Syria to the island of Cyprus [show map]. From there they sailed 175 miles to Perga, which is in modern-day Turkey [show map of Turkey]. Then they traveled north 100 miles to another city with the name Antioch [show map].
On the Sabbath, they spoke in the synagogue, giving a lesson from the Old Testament and concluding with the death and resurrection of Christ as the promised Messiah. Many wanted to hear more, so they preached again the following Sabbath, but the Jewish leaders became jealous and drove Paul and Barnabas out of Antioch. Acts 13:51-52 tells us how they responded: “But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. [show map] And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”
Here’s the main idea of Acts 14: Live on mission even when ministry is messy. I see six ministry principles we can apply to our lives.
1. Proclaim the gospel boldly in every place possible. Listen to Acts 14:1-3: “Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.”
It was the custom during synagogue services to recite the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and to hear readings from the Law and the Prophets. After this, any qualified Jew was allowed to give an address. We see this in Acts 13:15-16: “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it. So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said…” Paul spoke of the gospel in such a compelling way that many believed and were saved.
Verse 2 tells us there were others who refused to believe, who stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. The word “brother” literally means, “from the same womb.” These believers were brand new brothers and sisters through the miracle of the new birth.
When Paul and Barnabas saw how these baby believers were being buffeted by unbelievers, verse 3 says “So they remained a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of His grace…” The word “so” is also translated as “therefore,” meaning they remained even when ministry was getting messy. Instead of leaving, they stayed to build up the believers by speaking boldly and witnessing to the Word. Paul was a man on the move, but not a man easily moved. The word “bold” means they, “spoke frankly with freedom.”
Let’s live on mission even when ministry is messy.
2. Endure opposition, polarization, and persecution. Listen to what happens in verses 4-7: “But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. 5 When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, 6 they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, 7 and there they continued to preach the gospel.” [show map]