Jump Start # 2536
Acts 11:29 “And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea.”
Our verse today is about the church at Antioch. It was an amazing congregation. It was a church of “firsts.” It was the first Gentile congregation. It was the first place where the word “Christian” was used. It was the first to send out preachers. And, from our verse today, two more “firsts.”
This is the first time we read about money being sent from one congregation to another. There was a reason. There was a need. The brethren in Judea were suffering from a famine. Those in Antioch sent money to help the brethren in Judea. The other “first” here is that this is the first time a Gentile church helped out a Jewish church. That is remarkable. There were so many cultural differences and prejudices between Jews and Gentiles. One wonders if the roles were reversed, would the Jewish brethren send help to the Gentile brethren. We would hope so. Being one in Christ cancels all differences that we may have. Being of the same spiritual family pulls us together rather than separates us.
There are some amazing principles that we see with Antioch. They become a model for churches, even today. They had open eyes. They had big hearts. They grasped the concept of brotherhood and love. They had great leadership. And, they did something. What they did would make a difference for the suffering saints in Judea.
Let’s consider some thoughts from Antioch:
First, the church is not in the banking business. There are times and there are places when one would wonder about that. Too many congregations have fat bank accounts that are sitting there gathering dust. And, I know the justification. I’ve heard it for years. “You never know when we might need it.” “You never know when there might come a need.” And, my rely? Do you have insurance? Stick a little back to cover a deductible and then have some faith. Put that money to use in the kingdom. Find wonderful ways to use that money. It may be in supporting other preachers, but that’s not the only, and sometimes not even the best use of the money. Look around where you are. Is it time to clean up and update the church building? Some places are real dumps. While we live in nice homes, the church buildings are plagued with mold, junk and are dark like a dungeon. If you want to bring folks in, show that you take seriously the worship and the work of God. Next, look about what you are doing to get the word out. Do you have a great website? How about a Facebook presence? How about launching things on Facebook? How about a podcast? How about putting out material that looks great in both content and eye appeal? All of that takes money. Don’t have anyone who can do a website? Hire it out. Got an old black and white copier? Get a color copier. That costs. Yes, it does. Is it better to do things that can encourage, teach and help others or just fatten the bank account?
Second, Antioch had the core ingredients that makes a powerful church. Their members were active. We see that in our verse today. Each of the disciples determined to send money. This wasn’t a decision of the elders. The members were engaged, busy and active. Second, a powerful church must have money and resources. One poor guy can’t really help another poor guy. The saints in Antioch had money. They were willing to share it with those in Judea. It takes resources, talent and active members to do things. Next, they hand open doors and open hearts. You can have all kinds of resources, but if you don’t have any opportunity to use that talent, it doesn’t do much good. Antioch had a door of opportunity. Not only could they help the Christians in Judea, but they could also send Barnabas and Paul off on their first missionary journey. Sometimes opportunity stands before us and we do not even recognize it. Sometimes we miss opportunities because we move too slowly. Antioch didn’t seem to have to have months and months of discussion about sending money to Judea. The need was presented and they seemed to jump on it. And, obviously, running through all of this is incredible leadership. Leaders who understand the way of God. Leaders who can touch lives and get folks motivated. Leaders who know how to rally people around a just and good cause.
Powerful churches—there doesn’t seem to be many around these days. Oh, there are plenty of congregations, but active members, open doors, having the resources, incredible leadership—now, that’s what’s missing. People show up at the church building for worship without a purpose, mission or a need. Little to prayer for. Little to give for. Little to be excited about. Little to volunteer for. Not Antioch. Sending money and sending preachers—what a great place with a great heart.
Third, the Lord said to whom much is given, much is required. We are living in times when we can become a global church. It doesn’t take sending a Barnabas and a Paul in a boat to reach others. Not these days. Through email, social media, live Bible studies can be conducted across the oceans. Things can be sent to brethren in far away places that have no means, resources to have tools in their hands to teach, encourage and spread the word of God. It’s time that we lifted up our eyes and looked upon the fields. There are so many powerful and wonderful ways to spread God’s word, here and globally that could never be done before. I wonder when our days have ended here, if the Lord will ask us about these things. He might say, “You could watch Netflix from your bed, send an email to a friend hundreds of miles away, look at Facebook all day long, but you never thought about using things like that to spread My word?” Can you imagine what an Antioch church would be doing today with our technology and resources? And, yet, too many are content to do as little as they can. Content to stay in the dark ages. Content to just let things be. Content to watch the church whither and die. Content to just float along.
I believe there are several Antioch congregations around today. You hear about them. You hear about them because they are busy doing things. They are pushing and pushing the limits of what they can do to encourage, teach and spread the word of God. You ought to go visit some of these places. You ought to call up the leaders and ask to meet with them. You ought to go with a notepad and get ideas. You ought to see the good that is being done worldwide. God left us an example in the Scriptures of such an incredible church.
Antioch—the church of firsts.