Summary: A challenge to the Church, to take up where the church at Antioch left off, the task: the unfinished business of taking the Gospel to the ends of the Earth!
Percentage of new church members who have come from another church: 80
-- Pentecostal Evangel, 3/210/92. "To Verify," Leadership.
The church is the only cooperative society in the world that exists for the benefit of its nonmembers.
-- William Temple, Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 4.
The gospel must be preached afresh and told in new ways to every generation, since every generation has its own unique questions. The gospel must constantly be forwarded to a new address, because the recipient is repeatedly changing his place of residence.
-- Helmut Thielicke, Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 1.
"THE ANTIOCH CONCEPT"
I am convinced that in these last days, God is restoring the church to it’s original glory and power. I believe the Lord desires to raise churches to be literal hubs or centers for evangelism, worship and discipleship. The Church was born in Jerusalem, but it flourished at Antioch. In my study of the Early Church, I’ve discovered what I believe to be the reason for this "flourishing" at Antioch. Its outstanding feature was its "Open Arms". This is exactly what our Lord Jesus was doing while hanging on the Cross. He opened His arms to the whole world to say "Whosoever will, may come!" Churches need a great passion to fulfill the Great Commission..... Go into all the World and preach the Gospel to every creature, make disciples of all nations, be a house of prayer for all nations; this is not a good idea it is a God Ideal!
Antioch was an inter-racial church, welcoming people from every walk of life. Jesus said, "by this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another." (Jn. 13:35) The Disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. (Acts 11:26)
It is my opinion, that every church must take the Great Commission personally. Taking the Gospel to our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost part of the Earth simultaneously. I have embraced, practiced, preached and taught these principles for over 20 years. I have been blessed to watch how the Lord has used these truths to revive the hearts of His people. I have observed that as Christians get their eyes off themselves, and lift up their eyes to the ripened harvest fields, God has a way of setting us free from our own captivities! When the Church fishes for souls they will stop fussing at each other! When Job took his eyes from Job and prayed for his friends, God intervened his misery and turned his captivity! The Lord restored his health and his wealth was restored twice over. An Evangelistic Church will be the healthiest and spiritually the wealthiest and wisest of all! (He that winneth souls is wise. Prov. 11:30) In the words of Oswald J. Smith " the church that does not evangelize will fossilize."
In conclusion, the Scripture reveals a three fold principle, as I see it. Look at the scene of a small band of spiritual leaders gathered together in Acts 13:2-4. Consider the components of perhaps the most dynamic local church in history, thus far.
#1) WORSHIP! In verse 2 we read that they ministered to the Lord and fasted! Ministering to the Lord embodies: waiting on God, watchfullness of prayer with fasting and making the Lord feel WELCOME by praise and Worship! When the saints worship in Spirit and in Truth, the Lord Himself shows up in the midst and anything wonderful can happen! This is the keystone of ministry!
#2) WORD! In this atmosphere generated by God-hungry hearts - the HOLY GHOST SPOKE! The Word of the Lord does not disclose the manner in which the Spirit spoke; whether by prophet or an audible voice, all that we can know for sure is that HE SPOKE! By this we are assured of the absolute purity of the Word! God has chosen the "foolishness of preaching" to save those that believe. (1Cor. 1:21) It does not say that He has chosen foolish preaching!
The only possible way we (the Church) can be relevant to a World in darkness is that God would speak through His Church! The pure word of the Lord came from and atmosphere of worship. David said, "my heart was hot (inflamed) within me, while I was musing (to whisper or murmur ie. worship) the fire burned, THEN I SPOKE WITH MY TONGUE! (Ps. 39:3) What this world needs more than it ever has in history, is to encounter the people of God with TONGUES OF FIRE. From that upper room in Acts 1 & 2, the early Church burst into the streets and proclaimed the Word of the Lord in languages the everyone could understand! My Lord, touch us again with fresh r-e-l-e-v-a-n-c-e ! ! !
#3) WORLD! From Antioch, a world-wide ministry was launched! In Acts 13:3-4, we read that the church became a sending ministry and they went out to let the whole world know! From Seleusia to Cyprus to Paphos and TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH! To those that sat in darkness,to those that had never heard of Jesus or experienced His love! At last at Antioch, the church FULLY obeyed the mandate of Jesus Christ ! (Mt. 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8) May we follow their passionate example: WORSHIPING JESUS, PREACHING THE WORD, AND REACHING THE UTTERMOST PART OF THIS WORLD!