What’s in a name?
What’s in a name?
Hello. My name is Dustin Matthew Mackintosh. I bet many of you didn’t even know that.
Why? Because they call me: Dusty. That’s my trick for recognizing telemarketers right away. “Hello, is Dustin there?”
They clearly don’t know me.
Most of my family works this way. Who knows who Jonathan Christopher Mackintosh is? Who is that guy? That’s Jono. And for a brief time in Kindergarten he went by James.
Who knows Denise? No, that’s my mom, Dede.
But the best “nicknames” are the ones people come up with for you. Because they say something about you, because of something you did or accomplished.
Sometimes names work the other way. People come up with a name for you because it so powerfully fits who you are.
Sports is amazing at this.
Earvin Johnson? No, it’s “Magic” Johnson.
George Herman Ruth? No, it’s Babe Ruth. The Great Bambino. The Sultan of Swat.
“Shoeless” Joe Jackson.
What’s your nickname? What does it mean? What does it say about you?
And if someone were to come up with a nickname for you today, just based on your behavior, what would it be?
Church-Planting in Antioch
Church-Planting in Antioch
As we enter Acts 11 we have a bit of a rewind, a flashback, to catch us up on what has been happening in the church in other parts of the world. We followed the action in Samaria. We followed the action in Jerusalem. Now we are traveling a bit further up north, into modern day Turkey, to see what was happening up there.
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews.
Reaching back to Pentecost, remember Jews from all over who have made the trip to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost, 10s of thousands of them come to faith in Jesus Christ. And at first they are this growing mega church in Jerusalem, maybe spilling out into multiple gatherings, but certainly listening to the apostles as they preach the Word, as they witness.
Then Stephen is martyred and everybody scatters to go home. They go to Phoenicia (North), Cyprus (island to the North West) and Antioch (big city to the North).
And when they get there, what do they do? They are witnesses to Jesus, they can’t shut-up about Jesus, and so they share the Word. But being Jews they mainly share with who they are comfortable with, already in community with, they naturally share with other Jews. This is consistent with the pattern we have seen in Jerusalem.
But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus.
Third largest city in Rome. Something like 500,000 people. Huge! The gospel goes to the nearest biggest city. Only bigger ones are Alexandria (around the Mediterranean to the South) and Rome (way over along the Mediterranean to the West. Antioch is the biggest city in striking distance, about 300 miles.
The men who have fled there are not from Antioch. They are from Cyprus (the island off to the west there) and from Cyrene (captial of Libya, which is North Africa). These guys, out of towners in Jerusalem who are now refugees from persecution. They find themselves in Antioch. The big city.
Who do they start witnessing to?
Here “Hellenists” appear to be “Greek-speaking non-Jews”. (Though earlier Luke used the same phrase to describe Greek-speaking Jews, which is confusing).
This appears to be INDEPENDENT from the salvation of Cornelius and the revelation Peter is having in Jerusalem.
Acts may not be wholly organized chronologically, there is regional and thematic organization at play as well. So Andrew up in Samaria, Peter in Ceasarea, and these faithful but unnamed witnesses in Antioch...
All over the world the Holy Spirit is extending salvation to the Gentiles.
What did they preach? “the Lord Jesus.”
But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
I love this.
Jesus is the content of the preaching. It is His hand with them, so He ultimately is the origin of the witness. And it leads people to Him. He is the purpose or destination. Beginning and journey and destination: Jesus.
The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
The soil has been prepared so they don’t panic, instead they send help. Barnabus.
When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
First of all, how amazing that Barnabus didn’t freak out about what these clowns were doing! You guys don’t have training, clearly. You didn’t even know you weren’t supposed to evangelize to Gentiles until God’s revelation to Peter. You have no cohesive evangelism strategy, you have no church structure, my guess is you have no biblical foundation or knowledge.
This is ignorance on fire. This is church planting gone wrong...
Except that it is going SO WELL. And Barnabus sees that. He says “Stay awesome!” “Keep going.” He is the encourager, and he encourages them… and yet he sees that they desperately need some good teaching. And he remembers this guy Saul who, among all the leaders, was the only one who had gone to seminary. Saul had the absolute best of theological and Scriptural training… it was just before he met Jesus. If anyone can add the kind of Biblical and theological grounding that this church needs… it’s Saul.
And so he runs to get him.
So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
For a year they added to their enthusiasm about Jesus… they added teaching in the Word. Sound biblical teaching. From Barnabus, the great encourager, and Saul, who is responsible for writing a huge chunk of the New Testament and the mentor of Luke, who wrote even more of the New Testament.
And the people in Antioch, I don’t think they knew what to do with this new group of people arising in their midst.
They aren’t just a Jewish sect, that’s what the church had been before this. But these guys aren’t just a Jewish sect… a bunch of them, maybe most of them are clearly not Jewish! Antioch is a melting pot… and the church in Antioch is looking like a melting pot, it is crossing ethnic and cultural boundaries.
What do you call these people? They love each other (we’ll see that later), they are generous, they are spiritually gifted… all these things we are going to see...
But there is one defining thing about them.
They won’t shut up about Jesus!
This doesn’t appear to be a name the church chose for itself. It is “their” word. Little Christs, followers, or even slaves of Christ.
Maybe they call them that because they won’t shut up about Jesus.
Maybe they call them that because… what else do you call a group that loves like that, that crosses ethnic and religious and cultural boundaries like that? They didn’t have a word for it.
There is SO much we are going to learn from this church in Antioch.
It is so awesome.
But I want to focus in at the beginning of the church in Antioch. The founders.
They tried to be in Jerusalem, what will we do while we’re here? Witness where they are.
The church at Antioch was founded by nameless men who wouldn’t shut-up about Jesus. They witnessed where they were planted to whoever would listen: without distinction. They wouldn’t shut-up about Christ… so they called them Christians. They added to that Biblical knowledge. That added to that spiritual gifts. They added to that sending and missions.
But their church is built upon preaching the Lord Jesus.
They added the structure later. To help the passion, to direct and inform it.
Next Step Church of Antioch
Next Step Church of Antioch
What is the core of our church? What are we doing here?
What or who is at the center?
We have a lot of the structure that the church in Antioch was missing. We have some organization, we have some sound Biblical teaching on the regular. We have the means and ability to study the Word.
Now, in name, I think we all agree that Jesus is and should be the center… and I believe that to be true. But I am not at all sure it is externally obvious that Jesus is the center.
He is central in our worship. For sure.
He is central in our theology. Absolutely.
He is central in our devotional life, in the center of our hearts.
But is he central in a way that, when asked, people in the city of Thornton, or Northglenn… would they call us “Jesus people?”
I have been in churches where it feels like they have all the structure and none of the passion. They have the organization, the training, the discipline, the structure that Antioch, at this point, desperately lacked. But they didn’t have an active living experience of Jesus.
And so it was hollow. It was a structure and form around no kind of center.
What nickname would our neighbors give us?
Would they call us anything at all?
That is one direction we could go. Feel really guilty for not sharing the name of Jesus with your neighbors.
We shouldn’t use guilt and shame to motivate us into sharing the name of Jesus.
I don’t think that’s why those first believers in Antioch did it. I think they were excited about their discovery of Jesus… by what he was doing in their life, by their ongoing experience of his Holy Spirit.
If we aren’t sharing the gospel with our neighbor it’s because
a) I don’t like and certainly don’t love my neighbor, so I don’t care what they know or don’t know...
and/or b) I am not all that excited about Jesus myself. I am not experiencing him in my life. I am not experiencing the Holy Spirit in my life.
If it’s the second I need a revival of Jesus in my life.
If it’s the first… I need a revival of Jesus in my life. I love Jesus, Jesus loves them, an experience of the gospel will ALWAYS lead me to love my neighbor.
And he is the source, the content and the point. He is the origin, the destination and the journey.
What is at the core of our church? Would they call us “Christians”?
What is at the core of my life? And if it is Jesus… that’s what I want my answer to be… is that visible? Is that audible? Not because I am guilt-ed into sharing or witnessing or evangelizing… but because I am so passionate and excited about what Jesus is doing in me.
So… Jesus, do a new work in me. Do a new work in us.
I want to see revival in me and here at Next Step Christian Church… revival in our simplest passion for the Jesus Christ… revival that spills out from this building. Let me see and let me be a Christ-fanatic, a person who just won’t shut-up about Jesus such that that becomes my identity.
Who is that guy?
Oh, he’s a Christ-fan, a Christ-follower, a Christ-ian.
What is that church?
Oh, that’s a crazy group of Jesus-people. Those a Christ-followers, Christ-slaves, Christ-ians.
So we are going to make this our prayer today. Maybe you’re not ready to pray this… this isn’t where Jesus has you today. That’s okay. If so, pray for me, pray for the rest of us. This so beautifully captured my heart today.
The only thing I want in life is to be known for loving Christ