Connections are important. Without a connection to an electrical outlet, your appliances won’t work. The absence of connections makes it impossible for business deals to be made. Lack of connections make cell phone calls fail, surfing the web frustrating and social networking an unrealized innovation. All human relationships are built on connections. All creative invention and progress grows out of our connections. The ministry of God’s kingdom is all about our connection with God, one another and the harvest through Jesus Christ. The first century church in Antioch provides us a “connection template” for church health and growth that is still relevant today.
Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire. It was a racially and culturally diverse city of 500,000 people, in what is now southeastern Turkey. Early on in the history of the church, the focal point of the movement switched from Jerusalem to Antioch. It was here that “disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26). Antioch became the common connecting point for the calling and equipping of leaders, planting life-giving churches and strengthening existing churches.
Calling and equipping leaders was part of the DNA of the Antioch church. Barnabas and Paul spent an entire year discipling new believers in Antioch (Acts 11:26). It was here that the church recognized the unique ministry of Barnabas and Paul; in an anointed atmosphere of prayer and worship, and sent them forth on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-4).
Planting life-giving churches was what Barnabas, Paul and Silas would do on three successive missionary trips, that all started from Antioch (Acts 13:1-4, 15:36-41, 18:22-23). Places like Philippi, Ephesus, Thessalonica and Corinth were introduced to the Christian vocabulary through these efforts.
Strengthening existing churches was a consistent feature of early missionary endeavors. Churches were not planted and then left neglected to wither and die under the assault of persecution and false teaching. They were nurtured by return visits and a stream of correspondence from the apostles (Acts 14:21-25, 15:36, 18:23).
The Church of God in California/Nevada is developing ann that will enhance the development of God-called, anointed leaders, the planting of life-giving churches and the strengthening of our 118 existing churches and 10 new church plants. This involves us catching the vision to become missional, rather than maintenance in our approach to ministry. As Alice and I travel across our two states we are meeting many people in our churches who are hungry to move beyond the status quo. They want to be part of a move that takes us from being a maintenance state to a state on a mission. In the coming years we will see that happen, as we embrace together the Antioch Connection. It won’t happen without sacrifice and breaking down old barriers. But together, with the Holy Spirit’s help, we will see this happen.
MEN & WOMEN OF ACTION
The mission of the Men & Women of Action is to provide men and women with the opportunity to show the love of Christ by participating in hands-on ministry through volunteer services in construction, disaster relief and humanitarian around the world while enhancing other ministries so they will be more effective, efficient, and fruitful in their participation in the Great Commission.