The church at Antioch in Acts 13 is an example of the kind of church God uses to accomplish His Mission. The obvious strength of this church is the leaders mentioned.
There are some underlying characteristics that enabled the prophets and teachers to take on the mission. I think the text indicates that the church had the right attitude. The right attitude showed three things:
- The disciples (church) were SUBMITTED TO DRIVEN LEADERS. A plurality of prophets and teachers in the Acts 13 church was supported by the people who were apparently submitted to the leaders. It is demonstrated by the fact that when the leaders shared their vision with the whole church it was accepted. Driven leaders are visionary and will often be ready to step out.
Unfortunately, often vision is faced with opposition. In Acts 13 it is clear that the church was ready to follow leadership. When God provides biblically based visionary leaders their ability to accomplish the vision is directly related to the church being submitted to leadership.
- The leaders were SURRENDERED TO THE DIRECTION OF THE SPIRIT. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). Note the Holy Spirit gave direction to those already worshiping and serving. The direction of the Spirit was recognized not only by the leaders but again we see the church body showing surrender.
A church that is on mission and ready to move forward needs both a church body of well taught disciples and leaders who are surrendered to the Holy Spirit. We are not told how the Holy Spirit spoke, but it is clear that there was a common acceptance that the Spirit was giving direction. This kind of surrender comes from a body of believers who are open and seeking the Lord’s direction. Additionally, I think it is clear that this was a praying church.
- The third part of the right attitude is a COMMITMENT TO THE DEFINED MISSION. When leaders have a vision and the church is submitted to leadership there is a danger. The danger can be blind followers. The church at Antioch had a plurality of biblical teachers who understood how the vision was directly related to the mission. Thus, they were able to confirm the mission with the support of whole church.
Churches often lose sight of the mission of making disciples and establishing churches. Ministering to needs and doing good works is a necessary part of the functioning of the church. However, we need to keep the focus on the mission.
When a plurality of leaders and disciples are committed to the mission the result is a unified church that is missional.
It would have been easy for the church to become inward and self centered. BUT, the church had the right attitude and was focused on the mission. The attitude in this church is an example of what it takes to truly be a church on mission.