The Very First Missionary Meeting
Acts 14:27 When they arrived, they called the church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles. 28 And they stayed there with the disciples for some time.
Paul and Barnabas had been sent out as missionaries from Antioch. This group of Christians had laid their hands on them, believed in them, and sent them out. I’m sure that they continually supported them in prayer during the entire time of their mission and now they returned back to this church to give their report.
This aspect of reporting back was vitally important to the on-going and future work of Paul and Barnabas. Without this network back home it would be difficult to venture forward on another journey. Gathering the church together they had the first missionary meeting. They reported what “God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles.” They did not take credit themselves but reported what it was that God had done in and through them. This was a time of giving God the glory for they had been guided by the providence of the Holy Spirit.
They must have been excited to share this good news for they knew that the church had been behind them the whole time. McGarvey expresses the emotion of one returning from the hard-fought mission field and bearing good news as one who “pants beneath the burden of his untold story.” In other words — they were dying to let people know what had happened.
The church in Antioch had done something no other church had done before. This was an experiment in which they raised financial support and sent out missionaries. They prayed for the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit and now they were rejoicing with their success. This engagement with missionary activity signaled a shift in the center of Christianity from Jerusalem to Antioch. The very first missionary meeting pointed to the place where God was moving.
If a church is to be alive and have a vital ministry, she must be engaged in missions. Whether the mission field is in the same town, or around the world, to be engaged in taking the good news to others life will be brought to the sending congregation itself. This is what happened at Antioch.
Within this simple experiment of a new and young church in Antioch you can find a plan for missions ministry.
1) Pray that there will be those among you who will feel the call to go out and share the good news of Jesus Christ.
2) Be willing to send your very best! God won’t forget about the sending congregation.
3) Raise financial support for those whom you are sending out. Make sure they know that there is a complete network supporting them and their ministry.
4) Pray continually when they are out and engaged in their work. From day to day we have no idea what they will be facing. Paul and Barnabas had been in prison, mistreated and beaten and yet God was with them and they were able to continue forging ahead, moving from city to city and sharing the good news of Jesus.
5) When they come home — have them share their stories of what God has done! Rejoice and give God the glory for the way in which he is moving in the world.
6) When the missionary comes home tired and weary, give them time and space to regain their energy.
Some 2000 years later these same principles apply. Too many churches are complaining about sending their resources to “other” people and don’t want to continue to give to the mission of God around the world. Why — the mission field has come to us! While that’s true, it was also true in Paul’s day. The church in Antioch chose to intentionally support a new missionary experiment. It was not to the detriment of that congregation. On the contrary, as they supported the missionary work of the church, so their own church grew and was strengthened. It is when we give away and help others that God helps us to grow into who we are supposed to be!
Tired of missionary meeting? Maybe we ought to think that over again and make space for the one returning, panting beneath the burden of their untold story.
Lord, we give you the praise and the glory for what you are doing around the world. May we rejoice in the story. Amen.