The church in Antioch was not planted as result of demographic research or prolonged planning by a leadership team … it was a work of God and a significant church was birthed out of it!
My recent series about difference makers has up to this point directed our attention to various individuals in Scripture. We have looked at an event in the life of one person from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament.
Each of these individuals has had at least two things in common, first, they were young, and second, we do not know what their names were. However, it is not essential for a person to be young in order to make a difference, neither is it only individuals that the Lord uses. He can also work through a group.
In the book of Acts we find a group of people making a significant difference; they had been part of the church in Jerusalem but due to persecution had fled from the city (Acts 8:1; 11:19). We might expect that these believers would have kept quiet about their faith because it had caused them trouble, but this is not what they did.
Philip went to Samaria and began to minister there (Acts 8); others who had fled went to different places. In Acts 11 we read that some went to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch. We do not know who was in these groups; that is, we do not know their names. They too are unknown difference makers! Like Philip they engaged in evangelism sharing the good news about Jesus.
We are told that the Christians who went to Antioch spoke not only to Jews but to Greeks as well. They stepped outside of their comfort zones. These believers spoke to people who were different than they were. Christianity is a faith for all people; it has to go cross cultural! This is God’s intent, texts like Matthew 24:14; 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8 confirm this.
The actions of these nameless Christians helped spread the message of Christ and resulted in the formation of a church. What took place in Antioch was so significant that when the church in Jerusalem heard about it they sent Barnabas to see what was going on there.
The church in Antioch was not planted as result of demographic research or prolonged planning by a leadership team (as helpful as those things may be at times); it was a work of God and a significant church was birthed out of it!
The church was growing. Acts 11:21 tells us “The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord” (NIV). As they proclaimed the gospel, God prospered them. This church was open to the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:1-3) and was the base from which Paul went out on his missionary journeys; it became a strategic place in the plans and purposes of God.
The Lord can work in the same way today. He does not need “super star” Christians. What he needs, and desires are people who make themselves available to Him; He can do great things through them.
The world is filled with individuals and churches that are making a significant impact for Christ and we yet do not know the names of the people involved.
Most of God’s work is done through people who are not well known. It is not our fame but our faithfulness that matters. The world, and perhaps also the church world, may never know our names or take notice of the things that we do for the Lord, but nothing escapes the attention of the Lord and He knows each of our names.
John P. Lathrop - United States
John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Western Connecticut State University, Zion Bible Institute, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Center for Urban Ministerial Education (CUME). He is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies and has twenty years of pastoral experience.