The Antioch Project

Title: The Antioch Project

Bible Book: Acts 11 : 19-20

Author: David Hammonds

Subject: Ministry; Church; Christian Living



Antioch was a City was 300 miles north of Jerusalem, 3rd city of the Roman Empire, with a population of 500,000. Antioch, The Church, was associated early with Christian effort. It was there that the persecuted disciples fled after the demise of Stephen (Acts 11:19-20). The name Christian was first applied to followers of Jesus there, and all three of Paul's missionary journeys began in Antioch. The most flourishing period in the history of the Christian Church in Antioch was in the time of Chrysostom, who was born there in 347 A.D. In 635 A.D. it was taken by Muslim Arabs, by the Turks in 1084 A.D., and by Crusaders in 1098 A.D. (from The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)

The Church in Jerusalem had become embroiled in problems. The leaders had lost their heart for evangelism. God began doing a new work in Antioch. When the church leaders at Jerusalem heard of this success in Antioch, they sent Barnabas to visit the church there (Acts 11:25-26). The situation Barnabas saw was a growing and going church. It was the pioneer Gentile work and it was an "outside the box" ministry. The church was different for several reasons.


Look at Acts 11:19-21. Evangelism is the foundation of the church. It is the heartbeat of God. Every notable, growing, and producing church will have evangelism at the center of all its activities. Many churches build on other things but never become the producing church that they could be. Harold Willmington said, "The purpose of the local church is to make as many people like the Lord Jesus in the shortest time possible."


Note Acts 11:21-26. You can see in verse 21 that, "The hand of the Lord was upon them." God's power was visible. It was evident. You could walk in the room and know it. In verse 23 it is recorded that, "Barnabas had seen with his own eyes the grace of God that was there." He was glad. No small excitement here. He was glad!! Verse 24 shares that Barnabas was full of the Holy Spirit. There was Holy Spirit energy in Barnabas and he knew that the same energy in him was in this church. Great numbers were saved. Energy, Energy, Energy. Then, in verse 26 we note that Paul was sitting at Tarsus waiting. He was poised for this time. His pent up energy was unleashed on this young Church and they grew rapidly. Energy, Energy, energy!

The church today has become embroiled in worship wars, doctrinal debates, and exciting entertainment. What the church of God needs today is good old Holy Spirit energy that will transform the people that enter. We need energy. Not our purpose driven energy but God's dynamic sin-killing, soul-saving energy. We will be comforted when we see it.


We see this in Acts 11:26.

Notice that the term given to identify them was "Christians." The term simply means "a Christ follower or disciple." What the origin of the term is no one seems to know. There is a lot of speculation. Some believe the church used the term. Some believe that it came from Paul. Some believe it came from the world. The interesting thing is that the term "Christian" was new. It was not an old religious label. It did not involve the Judaic flavor.

John Piper in his work on Athanasius explains that the Council of Nicaea used terms not found in Scripture to explain the Incarnation. Piper suggests that we do the same in reaching our world. They do not always understand our religious rhetoric. The world needs to hear a fresh voice from God. They want to hear us, but are we talking in terms they cannot understand. We need to measure our words. Are they effective? Don't be afraid to talk with someone about Christ and don't be afraid to use language that is not religious.


Now look at Acts 11:29.

This young church had already learned the principle of caring for others. They did "feel their pain." The church must get out of its isolation and insulation. This is not the social gospel of the last generation. This is a new demonstration of love and compassion.

Don't give advice to a hungry man. Give him food. Win his confidence with your compassion. Then you will have listening ears.

The evangelical church has lost its appeal because it has lost its compassion.

There are a number of growing churches that have learned ways to connect to the unbelievers around them.

One word of caution is necessary at this point. We can never afford to trade our beliefs for an audience with a lost soul. They do not need another person with an agenda. They need the compassion of Peter and John as they went to the temple. The lost man needs our compassion, but he needs the power of God in his life. We must never think that we can change people by loving them. It takes the power of God to change a heart.


Look at Acts 13:1.

This church was involved in more than just Sunday services. There must have been great training. Discipleship was the strong companion of evangelism. Notice that there was not one leader, but many. The church today is not like the church of the twentieth century. There are many different people. Our church has lost the rural agriculture genre. It has even lost its technology genre. The present-day church is in need of experienced teachers that can communicate to a generation that needs "service." We are a "service" oriented society. We need to touch people where they live. The need is not just a "needs" ministry, but it is a relational ministry. There are people in this church that do not relate to me. They do relate well to another person. Other here relate well to me, but may not relate well to someone else. It takes many different kinds of people to do relational ministry.

John Maxwell gives us a hint on this issue through the concept of influence. A leader is not one of position but of influence. The day of the "one man show" was not evident at Antioch.

Spiritual leaders should take a lesson from this church. James says that we are not all masters.


Now note Acts 13:2-3.

Evangelism is never easy. A good number may show up for outreach, but few show up for evangelism. Acts 1:8 deals not only with geographical dimensions, but also with cultural dimensions of evangelism and ministry. Notice that Antioch was not just reaching the locals, but had a worldwide vision. They got out of their comfort zone.

Hugh Hewitt challenges the Embarrassed Believer to get out of our comfort zone. The church today will never prosper until we are willing to leave the old comfortable Clothes, Songs, Methods, Schedules, Approaches, Attitudes and Expectations.


Lastly, look at Acts 15:1,22,23, 25, and 30.

The council at Jerusalem revealed the real problems with an outside the box ministry. They found themselves looking for answers. John Piper suggests there be another council as Nicaea. The church today needs to look for answers. How do we reach our world for Christ? Larry Wynn at the Georgia Baptist Convention 2006 preached on this issue. How do we go beyond the pew and capture the unsaved around us? We need another Antioch Project.

Will this church take on this endeavor, or will we continue in our liturgies, programs, and comfortable, relaxed, isolation. I once heard Dr. Falwell preach a sermon on Paul's shipwreck on the way to Rome. His sermon was entitled, "South Winds Blowing Softly." Are we there today?

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