Acts 11:19-26; 20:36-37
Commissioning of Hill City Church
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Acts 11:19-20 (Holman) Those who had been scattered as a result of the persecution that started because of Stephen made their way as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the message to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, Cypriot and Cyrenian men, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Hellenists, proclaiming the good news about the Lord Jesus.
People from the Jerusalem church, forced to scatter due to persecution, started churches. A result of one new church was; people who would have never been welcome or received in the church at Jerusalem were given a chance to be accepted and to believe. The church at Antioch reached out to Greeks, to Gentiles.
This is why we start churches; to win to Jesus people that otherwise would not be won to Him. Peter Wagner, one of the world’s premier missiologists, said, “The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches.” His argument is hard to refute. Established Southern Baptist churches baptize 3.4/100 members; new ones baptize over three times more at 11.7/100.
George G. Hunter, a Methodist and one of my favorite writers, said the only difference between the declining Methodist numbers and increasing Southern Baptist numbers is the number of new churches the latter started. If new churches had not been started, Southern Baptists would also have a diminishing graph. If Hunter is correct, Christianity will wane in the USA without church-planting.
In the first century, God blessed church planting. It was a century similar to ours in many ways—pagan, anti-Jesus, sinful, superstitious, hopeless. I believe if church-planting could be blessed by God today in our twenty-first century, as He blessed it in the first century, the result would be a time of remarkable growth.
Acts 11:21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.
Without the Lord’s hand, there can be no wins in church planting. Speaking of the success of the church at Corinth, Paul said, “God gave the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6). Only God can bring victory. The most important thing we could ever do for Hill City would be prayer in the form of intentional intense intercession.
Intentional—organized in our prayer folders. Otherwise we will end up praying “for me, my four, and no more.” Intense—“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16b KJV). We need to pray like we mean it, with intense earnestness. Intercession—our Lord Jesus intercedes for us. “Go thou and do likewise.” We should strive to be like Him, and intercede for others.
Acts 11:22-24 Then the report about them was heard by the church that was at Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to travel as far as Antioch. When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged all them to remain true to the Lord with a firm resolve of the heart, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And large numbers of people were added to the Lord.
The mother church, in Jerusalem, sent help to the daughter church, in Antioch. Only unselfish churches, ones that see the big picture, something beyond themselves, will start churches. Only missions-minded churches plant churches.
The Jerusalem Church sent Barnabas to encourage the Antioch Church. People who plants churches are always forced to fight formidable discouragements they have to overcome. Troubles discourage us. Many who start new churches have known only established churches; they do not have firsthand knowledge of how hard the work is to plant a church. You who are being sent out by Second, your mettle will now be tested. My children will tell you their church started when we planted a church; they were 11 and 9 years old. Are we willing to pay any price to make Jesus famous? Is finding the lost worth our best, albeit difficult, effort?
Distractions discourage new churches. Lots of tasks need to be done. In a new church plant, keeping it simple will be an almost impossible task facing you. Stay focused on discipleship and evangelism. Keep the main thing the main thing.
Institutional creep discourages new churches. They can sense hardening rather than softening toward the lost. Instead of launching pads sending us out to engage the culture, our churches too often become fortresses to keep out the culture. As culture changes around us, we too often fossilize and refuse to change.
A fable may help. As a boy, Charles loved to jump in the river and play in it for hours, though it was dirty. As a teen, Charles bought a canoe to float down the river; he liked hearing his oars make the water splash, but his diving-in days were over–too may girls to impress to get dirty. As an adult, having bought a huge pontoon boat with every possible amenity, Charles never got in the water at all.
Churches sometimes do this. We start off as culturally sensitive, diving into the culture to rescue others. Then we begin to worry about impressing others. Finally, we build pontoons which become our fortresses. Our churches thus become islands in a cultural stream we never interact with.
Be culturally creative. Think outside the box. We don’t want clones of Second. The church at Jerusalem was not like the church at Antioch, which was not like the church at Corinth, which was not like the church at Ephesus.
Acts 11:25-26 Then he went to Tarsus to search for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught large numbers. The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.
Don’t miss the emphasis on discipleship. It mattered. For one year, Saul and Barnabas poured their lives into the people at the new church plant in Antioch.
The result of all this was; the new church plant captured attention. Our enemies taunted us by calling us “Little Christs”, thinking they were mocking us by calling us by the name of a crucified criminal. The believers were impossible to ignore. Do remarkable things, things that can be explained only by God’s intervention. Seek to leave behind us results that will arrest the attention of historians. Why should God bless mediocrity?
Acts 20:36-37 After he said this, he knelt down and prayed with all of them. There was a great deal of weeping by everyone. They embraced Paul and kissed him.
The church at Jerusalem planted the church at Antioch, which in turn planted the church at Ephesus. Paul the church planter, in a hurry to reach Jerusalem on his third missionary journey, stopped at the port city of Miletus, and sent for the elders of Ephesus to come meet with him. After he preached to them, he led them in a time of prayer. We are going to do the same today.