A few friends of mine are in Spain right now -one is the ever lovely Ashley Bacon. She is pictured above standing in front of a massively beautiful Spanish church. When we look at our history we often find our roots.
Here’s the 2nd devotion from Acts 13 and the first missionary church in Antioch.
The start up of the Church in Antioch (the 2nd city of the Roman Empire) was a catalyst for the early church. Things happened here that didn’t happen elsewhere.
In Antioch they preached to those outside Jewish circles. And when they did the power of God accompanied their preaching and whole crowds of Gentiles became believers. Jerusalem would hear about this follow up of God’s will to evangelize the unreached world with the gospel. This news hits Jerusalem and they respond sending out Barnabas to Antioch. Pray with me: God your word is more than history-speak to us as we read the biblical account let it nourish and bring life to our faith.
Acts 11:19 Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews. 20 However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. 21 The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord.
22 When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
Further on in verse 25, Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. 26 When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.
This blending and belonging- created (we don’t know why or who first started it) a whole new label. Jewish, didn’t fully describe them. Gentile no longer. Christian.
Why did Barnabas go out from Antioch and bring back Saul? Perhaps Saul’s testimony could inspire the Christian church in Antioch? There is something powerful about hearing a radical conversion. Many people who had fled the persecution in Jerusalem (yes the one Saul had been a leader of) had turned up in Antioch. We don’t know exactly what they taught but we do know they were effective.
Matt Brown in his book Awakening writes:
“There is a question that’s been haunting me lately: What if the apostles preached the way many Christian leaders do today? What if the apostles had shared negative statistics about how the faith is being trampled, and believers are dwindling, and culture is going to hell in a handbasket? Would that negative kind of message have inspired early Christians to trust in Christ? Probably not.
Stories of God’s work on earth give practical testimony to the greatness of God. Stories of God intervening take our theology and belief about him out of the stuffy closet of inexperience and into the real world where we need God to be most. Hearing how God is moving in real people’s stories gives us a larger picture of God, and how much he is able to move and desires to move in our lives today.”
Excerpt From: Brown, Matt. “Awakening.”
Paul and Barnabas preach the incredible story of Jesus and his grace, the complete forgiveness of sin. We also know that Saul could powerfully teach Christ via the scriptures. And I’m convinced they would have shared their personal stories of encountering the resurrected Christ.
Together they could boldly preach of Saul’s conversion. Those who had heard of or fled the persecution in Jerusalem would lean in at the story of Barnabas, the only disciple willing to believe Saul was changed. Consider hearing this in 1st person by Barnabas! This would give courage to any listener. And the church in Antioch is a crowed gathering feeding on the faith experiences of these two.
After a year of God’s Spirit accompanying the teachers and prophets we see the structure of missions emerge. Read more on that in Go (Part 1).
As for today, gather your friends and share your stories, stir your faith- keep moving forward!
Questions for reflection:
Who is God calling you toward? Where? Follow those unnamed evangelists and go outside your normal circles!
Is there someone like Barnabas or Saul where God’s story is more powerful with them? Reach out, and invite them to be a part of your next trip, meeting, or meal.
And if they can’t come, consider the other friend I have in Spain hiking the Camino de Santiago- and even though no one could travel with him- he went anyway.
Here is a snap from his view along the way.
God’s adventure is worth it! He desires to move in your life today!