Summary: This is the first sermon in the series, "Becoming A Contagious Congregation, A Study of the Church at Antioch".
Notice Acts 11:21 from our scripture reading - "And THE HAND OF THE LORD WAS WITH THEM and a great number believed, and turned to the Lord."
The church at Antioch was a CONTAGIOUS CONGREGATION. The fact that "a great number believed, and turned to the Lord", gets our attention.
I want to emphasize today the first reason this was true - "the hand of the Lord was with them". This phrase appears 38 times in scripture. It is used to refer to the display of God’s power.
I want to talk today about power in the church.
The Bible says in Psalm 62:11 that "power belongs to God". Any church that wants to become a contagious congregation like Antioch must learn how to harness God’s power. No church can become contagious in its own strength.
Christ put God’s power on display during His public ministry. He said in Matthew 28:18, "All power is given unto me in heaven and earth." That statement isn’t difficult to believe, for the gospels share how Jesus had power in every area of life.
Power to heal. (Mark 3:15)
Power over demons. (Mark 6:7)
Power in His doctrine. (Luke 4:36)
Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness after Jesus had nothing to eat or drink for forty days. The Bible says the devil took Jesus up to the top of a high mountain, showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time and said, "All this power I’ll give you if you worship me" (Luke 4:5,6). Christ didn’t fall for that baloney even in His physically weak state. When Jesus sent out his twelve apostles, He gave them power over demons (Luke 9:1). Christ didn’t need Satan’s limited power - He already had the power! And He wants to give His power to the church!
In Acts 1:8 Jesus said to His disciples, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
In Acts 4:33 the Bible says, "with great power gave the apostles witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all."
This power wasn’t reserved for the apostles. It is said of Stephen, one of the first deacons, he was "full of faith and power" (Acts 6:18).
The church at Antioch continued the succession of God’s power in the church. Just how did they do it?
The Bible gives us solid answers on how a church can harness God’s power in order to become a contagious congregation like Antioch.
First, there’s prayer. (Acts 13:3)
The church at Antioch was a praying church. Their prayers led to the sending of the first Christian missionaries as recorded in Acts 13. It is easy to look at the significance of this church as a missions-minded church and overlook the impact of prayer on the whole process.
How did they know to send missionaries? How did they know which missionaries to send? After all, their choices turned out to be pretty good ones don’t you think? Paul and his missionary companions established and/or ministered to most of the metropolitan churches of Asia and Europe in the first century, and they wrote over half of the New Testament!
Why was the church at Antioch so instrumental? Because they spent time in prayer and fasting! Any individual or congregation that desires God’s power must pray.
How humanly easy it is to forget the power of prayer.
While Josh McDowell was attending seminary in California, his father died. He knew his father was a Christian and went to heaven. But his mother had died years earlier when Josh wasn’t a believer and he wasnt’ sure whether or not she was a Christian. He becamed depressed thinking that perhaps his mother had died lost without Jesus. "Was she a Christian or not?" The thought obsessed him. "Lord", he prayed, "somehow give me the answer so I can get back to normal. I’ve just got to know." It seemed like an impossible request.
Two days later, Josh drove out to the ocean. He walked to the end of a pier seeking solitude. But when he got to the end of the pier there sat an old woman in a lawn chair, fishing. "Where’s your home originally?" she asked. "Michigan - Union City," Josh replied. "Nobody’s heard of it. I tell people it’s a suburb of - "Battle Creek", interrupted the woman. "I had a cousin from there. Did you know the McDowell family?" Stunned, Josh responded, "Yes, I’m Josh McDowell!" "I can’t believe it said the woman. "I’m a cousin to your mother." "Do you remember anything at all about my mother’s spiritual life?" asked Josh. "Why sure - your mom and I were just girls - teenagers - when a tent revival came to town. It was the fourth night - we both went forward to accept Christ". "Praise God!" Josh shouted, startling the surrounding fishermen.