I just finished writing a book entitled Preaching for Transformation. I used Acts as the text, especially Acts 1:8 where the apostles (“apostles” means “the sent ones” in Greek) were told they would be Jesus’ witnesses throughout the world when the Holy Spirit came upon them. God had a plan for the apostles. Let’s call that “Plan A.”
Plan A was for the apostles to spread out and take the message of Jesus to the world. But instead, after the Holy Spirit came, they did what most churches are doing today – they hunkered down inside the comfort of their own four walls and began working on their organization (see Acts 6), never leaving Jerusalem. Plan A failed, but God always seems to have Plan B in the wings.
Plan B is seen in Acts 8:1 where it says a “great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles (“the sent ones”) were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” What “the sent ones” were not willing to do did not square with what God wanted. I hope you see the sarcasm here. It’s like Luke hit the apostles upside the head (remember, “apostles” means “the sent ones” in Greek) and said, “You dummies. You can’t ignore God!”
You see, God always intended for the Church to be on the move rather than hunkered down. God always intended for the message to be viral rather than tethered to a location. God always meant for the church to be reaching out rather than reaching in.
Maybe it’s time to take notice and once again become the “sent ones” before God activates Plan B again. Or perhaps Plan B is already set in motion? Have you noticed how many churches are dying? Sort of like the Jerusalem church. It was dead and gone within 70 years, and before that Paul was collecting money for the Jerusalem church from the new churches birthed out of the Antioch Church.
You and I are here today because of the Church of Antioch. So why don’t we hear much about that church today? We hear a lot about Acts 2:42 where the life of the Jerusalem church is spelled out, but that text is before Luke tells us how ingrown the Jerusalem church became. I have a hard time figuring out why so many churches want to embrace the four practices of Acts 2:42. Sure they are good practices, but all of them are focused inward. None of them are reflections of Acts 1:8 where Jesus gave them his mandate for mission. It took a disaster for the Apostles to leave Jerusalem and take up the mission Jesus had clearly laid on them. Are we doing the same today?
Look at Acts 11:20 – “Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.” That’s what Acts 1:8 is all about- telling people about Jesus.
So which church would you rather your church be like: ingrown Jerusalem or externally-focused Antioch? About 85% of established churches in the West need to decide before it’s too late.
How can you shift from being a Jerusalem church to being an Antioch church? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.