Summary: There is much truth in the humorous adage that some people make things happen, others watch things happen, while still others are left wondering what happened. What is true of individuals is also true of churches. Some churches are dynamic, aggressively
The Character of an Effective Church
There is much truth in the humorous adage that some people make things happen, others watch things happen, while still others are left wondering what happened. What is true of individuals is also true of churches. Some churches are dynamic, aggressively reaching out with the gospel to make an impact on the world. Some know God is moving in other churches and wonder why they aren’t experiencing that power. Still others just barely exist, languishing while the spiritual weeds grow. They make an impact only on their member’s social lives.
Acts 11 introduced a leadership and a congregation that God used to make things happen – the Antioch church, the first beachhead of Christianity in the pagan world. That church had an impressive beginning. Acts 11:21 records that “a large number who believed turned to the Lord” under the ministry of Hellenistic Jews who fled Jerusalem following the martyrdom of Stephen. The Antioch church grew dramatically under the capable leadership of Barnabas and Saul. It was in Antioch that the name Christians was first given to followers of Jesus Christ. Although it was intended as a derisive term, the believers wore it as a badge of honor.
But of all the factors that made the Antioch church strong, the most significant was its submission to the Holy Spirit. Both the leaders and the congregation of the church were Spirit-filled. They were utterly dependent on the Spirit, who energized every phase of their ministry.
So what marks a Spirit-filled church? A Spirit-filled church may be defined simply as one whose members walk in obedience to the will of God. Since God reveals His will in scripture, a spirit-filled church must be deeply committed to the Word of God. In chapter 13 we can look and see the characteristics that marked this spirit-filled church and made it so effective that we can strive to mirror it today.
I. Spiritual Leaders (v. 1)
a. Effective, strong churches, inevitably have godly leaders, and the church at Antioch was no exception.
b. God has always put a premium on spiritual leadership.
i. These five men in verse 1 were the heart of the ministry at Antioch.
ii. Luke describes them as prophets and teachers.
1. Prophets played a significant role in the apostolic church.
a. They were preachers of God’s Word and were responsible in the early church to lead the congregations.
b. The prophets edified the saints with the messages they received from God by preaching expositions of existing revelation
c. Though preachers today are no longer prophets, they are given the gift of God to proclaim the Word
2. Teachers are critical in today’s church
a. Theirs is the ministry of giving others a clear understanding of biblical truth.
b. The distinctive ministry of teachers is it emphasizes on art of teaching not proclamation.
iii. Antioch had five men who where both preachers and teachers of God’s Word.
iv. It was through their ministry that the church was built up in faith.
II. Spiritual Ministry (v. 2a)
a. The responsibility of spiritual shepherds is spiritual ministry.
b. Unlike many in the ministry today who are busy with shallow activities and programs, the leaders at Antioch understood their spiritual mandate clearly.
i. They devoted themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word
c. Ministering, originally meant “to discharge a public office and was used in reference to those who served the state at their own cost.”
i. In scripture, however, it means more than public service; it describes priestly service.
ii. Serving in a leadership role in the church must be viewed as an act of worship to God, which requires sacrificing self for others.
iii. Their ministering in Antioch was not to the congregation but to the Lord.
iv. It is crucial to understand that God is the audience for all spiritual ministries.
v. Those whose goal is ministering to people will be tempted to compromise to achieve that end.
III. Spiritual Mission (vv. 2b-5)
a. Spiritual men with effective spiritual ministry will see God extend their spiritual mission.
b. God chooses for further ministry those already actively serving Him.
i. He is not likely to take idle Christians down from the shelf, dust them off, and entrust them with important work.
ii. Saul and Barnabas were deeply involved in ministering when their call to further service came.
c. Another principle that flows out of this text is that God sovereignly calls men to the ministry.
i. The church did not choose Saul and Barnabas
1. They would probably have been the last two chosen, since they were the best the church had.
ii. Instead, the Spirit called them to full-time missionary service.
d. A final principle to be gleaned from this text is the importance of waiting for God’s timing.