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Antioch: Plant Churches

Antioch: A Mini-Series on the Mission  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  56:34
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If you have your Bibles let me invite you to open with me to the book of Acts chapter 11.
When Jesus began his preaching ministry he proclaimed “the kingdom of God is at hand”
He presented a new vision for human flourishing in the world. He painted a beautiful picture of community in which the poor in spirit would inherit the kingdom of heaven, those who morn would be comforted, those who are meek should have the greater inheritance. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness would be satisfied.
In his earthly ministry he made a promise. “I will build my church”
God the Son came first to build the church by dying for her.
He was sent into the world to take on himself the punishment of sinners… but that was only the beginning.
He rose again… and he continued to fulfill his promise that he would build his church.
He did so by pouring out His Spirit.
His Spirit would make people new.
His Spirit would change hearts and empower the creation and the spread of His church.
His Spirit would guide his people to fulfill his commission.
Listen to how Peter puts it in his opening sermon to the Christian movement.
Acts 2:32–33 ESV
32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.
That is the age we are now living in.
The Spirit of God is at work in us and through us to build Christ’s church To the ends of the earth until he returns.
The book of Acts is all about what Jesus continued to do through his Spirit after his death, resurrection, and ascension back to the throne room of heaven.
This book gives us these beautiful snap shots of what the kingdom building work looked like.
We first see the church building project taking place in Jerusalem. In Acts 2.
Acts 2:41–47 ESV
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
This is Jesus’ vision for human flourishing coming to life in a spirit-filled people gathering together in his church.
but just as he promised… things would not continue this way without tribulation.
Persecution scattered these new Christians out of the city of Jerusalem all over the empire and especially to the city of Antioch.
We have been looking at the church at Antioch now for 3 weeks.
Acts 11 and Acts 13 give us snapshot pictures of this newly planted church which resulted from the persecution in Jerusalem.
Many people in Antioch, both Jews and Gentiles.., had believed and turned to the Lord Jesus.
Barnabas was a leader in the church at Jerusalem and he was sent from Jerusalem to check on the legitimacy of the Christian movement in Antioch.
Barnabas marveled at what he saw when he arrived In Antioch.
He saw the grace of God in the new church and he was glad.
Not only did he validate the legitimacy of the movement…, he was compelled to stay and help with the new church.
They needed discipleship.
So he recruited Paul to actually move from Tarsus..., and they stayed in Antioch making disciples for a whole year.
We pick up at the end of that year of discipling in verse 27
Acts 11:27–30 ESV
27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
Lets pray
Things are going good in Antioch.
People are coming to faith.
Supernatural unity is being experienced.
They have perhaps some of the best teachers in Christian history.
People’s lives are being totally transformed so much so that the the city has given them the new name: Christians or “little Christs”
As far as we know, Persecution has not disrupted their fellowship yet.
They are living the church life dream.
Verse 27-28 is an interruption to that dream.
The Spirit of God overtakes a man named Agabus,
and Agabus stands up in the midst of a gathering and he warns the congregation of a coming famine.
This famine was in fact a historical reality as the parenthetical addition reminds us (this took place in the days of Claudius).
You might expect that the church at Antioch would immediately begin making preparations for their own church or the ministry that they would hope to do in their own city to see more people come to faith in Jesus...
But that is not what happened.
Jerusalem was 310 miles away…, but despite the distance...., a concern for the church in Jerusalem swept through the congregation in Antioch.
Acts 11:29 ESV
29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea.
The disciples were not primarily concerned with self-preservation.
They were not solely concerned with the mission of their own church.
The Spirit of God led the disciples in the church at Antioch to give sacrificially for the preservation and mission of another church over 300 miles away in a historical moment that a 300 mile travel was no easy journey.
There had to be a deeper theological conviction at work here…
There had to be some sort of deeper belief that drove the church to respond in this way..... ...something that I am afraid we have lost in much of the American church ministry culture.
This leads us to truth #1

Truth #1 The Mission of God is Bigger Than One Church

Antioch community church recognized that God was working not just in Antioch,
but that God had continued to work in Jerusalem and that there was a Christian church in Jerusalem that now needed their help.
This kind of decision was not a random gesture of kindness.
This is the result of a year of teaching from Paul and Barnabas.
They new at this point that the great commission of Jesus was never a selfish or isolated commission.
It was never going to be a kingdom that revolved around one church in one location.
The great commission as given by Jesus himself emphasized a global mission… an expanding mission.
Matthew 28:19 (ESV)
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations
Acts 1:8 (ESV)
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
How could the mission be a mission to all nations… if disciples only ever considered the needs of their own churches and their own neighborhoods?
How could the mission ever expand to the ends of the earth, if everybody always stayed put in their own little communities?
If the the glory of the Lord was to fill the earth…
then the disciples of Jesus would have to look beyond their own locations, beyond their own comforts… to places where the gospel was needed… and then they would have to sacrifice to get the gospel to those places.
The Antioch church did not see the Jerusalem church as the competition.
The Antioch church did not see the Jerusalem church as a distraction from their mission.
They saw the Jerusalem church as brothers and co-laborers in a global mission To spread the best conceivable news of eternal life to the ends of the earth.j
St. Rose Community Church would not exist if it were not for individuals looking beyond their own community to another community.
First Baptist Church of Kenner saw the need in St. Rose…, and that congregation corporately decided to send their own members to this place to start a new church in an old building.
Since then… St. Rose Community Church has been on the receiving end of sacrificial support from other churches.
When the hurricane hit last year, we were with out power for close to six weeks.
We were running ragged all day every day, cutting trees, gutting houses, tarping roofs, organizing a supply center.…
And every other day around 6 PM…, another church in the city… Immanuel Community Church cooked us hot meals and served us at the end of the day.
They consistently and sacrificially showed love to us in that season not because they had anything to gain…, but because they care about the gospel going forth in this community and through our church.
They believed that the mission was bigger than one church.
St. Charles Parish has over 50,000 residents and we can only fit about 180 people in this building and that’s pushing it.
So as it stands with one service at St. Rose Community Church we could only reach .004% of St. Charles Parish.
That means our prayers and our giving, and our striving, and our sending, and our vision for pushing back lostness in this parish has to be bigger than just our church.
We need Gracepoint Church in Destrehan, First Baptist Church of Norco, and First Baptist Church of Luling to be gospel preaching, biblically sound, healthy churches who reflect the gospel to their communities.
And if there is any way we can help do that, we want to do it.
You might not know this…, but right now we strive toward this end in several ways.
We have river parish pastor prayer breakfast happening this Friday.
At that breakfast we give away good books,
introduce topics for discussion,
and we try to encourage the pastors in our area to deeper cooperation with one another and more faithful adherence to the Scriptures in their ministries.
We have been working with FBC Luling for over a year now as they have been without a pastor since before COVID.
I had the privilege of teaching at their church on Wednesday nights in the Spring and have been working with their pastor search team to help find them a rock solid expositional preaching pastor to come lead them into church health… and I think they have finally found the guy to come and help revitalize them.
His name is Cody Cunningham and he is currently serving in Kenya training pastors, but he hopes to come back and lead FBC Luling to be a healthy and missionary sending church.
Praise the Lord!
There are 14,000 people that live in Luling and Luling needs a healthy community of faith where residents can see and hear the gospel preached.
Mark Dever always asks young preachers this question…, “If you pray for revival, but it comes to the church down the street, would you still praise the Lord?”
Antioch understood that the mission of God was bigger than one church…
Antioch also understood That the mission of God was bigger than one person...

Truth #2 The Mission of God is Bigger Than One Person

It was an amazing thing that they deeply cared and sacrificed for the church that was in Jerusalem…
But what’s even more stunning are the two guys they decide to send to Jerusalem with the funds.
Acts 11:30 ESV
And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
They purposely sent their best teachers, and their most dynamic leaders, to make the dangerous journey from Antioch to Jerusalem with all the donations.
They sent their most gifted leaders into the most dangerous situation…
I mean, were they not concerned that if something were to happen with them, the church at Antioch could die?
Were they not concerned that people would leave or grow disinterested in their absence?
Apparently they were not concerned Or at least that concern did not deter them.
In fact, in Acts 13, we see that they were willing to sacrifice these church leaders permanently for the furtherance of the kingdom of God.
Spring forward to Acts 13.
Paul and Barnabas are back with Antioch having traveled to Jerusalem.
They are worshipping with the church, praying, and fasting… and the Spirit of God speaks.
Acts 13:1–3 ESV
Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 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.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Antioch had the opportunity to keep the apostle Paul as a leader in their church.
Paul received his ministerial calling from the resurrected Jesus himself… and He is hands down one of the sharpest theological minds in the history of the world.
Barnabas was known throughout the Christian movement for his unique generosity, and contagious kindness, and comforting encouragement.
These two guys were church leader rock stars….. and through the process of prayer and fasting… the Spirit says send them away..
And Antioch did it.
Theologically…, They did it knowing that it is God who builds his church by his grace and for his glory.
God was building his church in Antioch with or without Paul and Barnabas…
But practically they did it… because It appears that Barnabas and Paul had already created a culture of leader-plurality in the church…
The church at Antioch did not live or die based off of Paul or Barnabas’s leadership.
Three other men are listed in Acts 13 as leading teachers and prophets in the church…, They are presumably the ones who will now continue to lead the church even in Paul and Barnabas’ absence.
Healthy churches are not built around the leadership or giftings of one person.
Now there are several implications to this for us.
Firstly…, this means you can take some of the pressure off of yourself.
If Paul was not considered irreplaceable for church life in Antioch…, then you are not irreplaceable.
You are valuable…, but your are not irreplaceable. The Lord can accomplish his will however he wills and through whomever he wills.
God is not in heaven struck with anxiety over whether you will get it right and figure things out so that he can get the gospel to the nations.
God was not fretting about what would happen to the Antioch church if he sent Paul and Barnabas to go plant churches elsewhere.
He desires to use you…. Yes… but does he need you… no.
That should be freeing.
Because it means you get to be a participant in the mission of God but you don’t have to be crushed by the weight of it as if it all depends on you.
If God didn’t need Paul or Barnabas to keep the ministry going in Antioch… he certainly doesn’t need you or me to keep the work going in St. Rose.
There is a personal implication to all this…, but there is also a corporate one.
We as a church corporately want to be the kind of church that does not believe the health or vitality of the church is dependent upon Any one person.
If we are doing our job making disciples… then we will be a church that is constantly reproducing itself in the lives of others.
If I am doing my job rightly, then I am constantly trying to work myself out of a job.
If Drew is doing his job rightly, then he is constantly trying to work himself out of a job.
All of us should be trying to teach other people how to serve the Lord in the ways that we serve the Lord.
This is one of the many reasons our church is structured under the leadership of a plurality of elders
And I believe its one of the reason that Paul structured all the churches he planted under the leadership of a plurality of elders.
Acts 14:23 ESV
23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
Paul wanted to plant churches that would reach not only the nations…, but also subsequent generations.... and that meant a culture of discipleship that did not centralize around any one person other than Jesus himself.
I want you to hunger for the word of God preached…
I do not want you to hunger for the word of God preached by one particular person with one particular preaching style.
This morning is my last Sunday before taking a Sabbatical from the preaching ministry in this church. I have done the bulk of the preaching in this church for the last 7 years… and this fall I will be taking a break from September 11th through December 11th to refocus on the Lord, my family, and to spiritually prepare for the next season of spiritual war here in St. Rose.
I have been teaching the Scriptures weekly in some format for 13 years… and I honestly plan To return to the ministry of preaching in December like a man on fire having been at the top of the mountain with Yahweh ready to descend and storm the gates of hell in this community and beyond…
But I am only able to take this time for focused prayer and fasting.., because we have a plurality of leaders and a discipleship culture in this church.
I get to leave for a Sabbatical this fall with no concern in the slightest for the health and the spiritual vitality of this church because I believe these truths.
Truth #1 The Mission of God is Bigger Than One Church
Truth #2 The Mission of God is Bigger Than One Person
The Antioch church believed this…, and thus when the Spirit of God said to send Paul and Barnabas… they laid hands upon them and they sent them…
But what exactly did they send them to do?
What was the mission?
This leads to our final truth this morning.

Truth #3 The Mission of God is a Church Planting Mission

The Antioch church did not send Paul and Barnabas out to simply preach the gospel.
They did not send them out to simply lead more individuals to faith.
Rather they sent Paul and Barnabas out establish new churches.
We saw this in Acts 14:23.... this is what they were sent to do.
Acts 14:23 ESV
23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
They entered into new places where there were no Christians…
they led people to Christ…
they drew them together into new churches…
they discipled them…
and they appointed elders.. and told them to keep repeating that process.
The apostles heard the commission of Jesus.
They looked at a lost world.
And they understood that planting local churches in communities was the answer to the fulfillment of the great commission.
It is through local churches that the gospel is both preached and embodied in a community.
Its through the supernatural fellowship of believers gathering together regularly in neighborhoods that propels the gospel forward.
Last week we looked at our responsibility to make disciples… but it is in the context of the church and her ministry that disciples are made to make more disciples.
The office of elder or pastor was given for our spiritual growth.
Deacons are given as a gift for the many needs of the people of God.
The Lord’s supper and baptism are gifts for the church to remember what Christ has done.
church discipline is a gift for the church and her spiritual protection.
Meaningful membership and the mutual responsibility we have for one another as members of a church is a gift for our spiritual growth and for our joy in the fellowship of God’s people.
The world doesn’t just need evangelists running around securing individual decisions from people… the world needs church planters and church planting teams of people who will push into the darkness of cities and communities.
And the need is great.
There are 15,000 people in our little 3 square miles of swamp called St. Rose, LA
That means we have about 1% of St. Rose’ population in this room worshipping with us this morning.
That means there is much work to do.
St. Rose Community Church was planted 7 years ago with about 15 people and the Lord has blessed our disciple-making efforts so that now we are around 150 church members.
But what if those 150 people are faithful to share the gospel and make disciples over the next year?
What if each of those 150 reached 1 person with the gospel next year..
We would very quickly be 300…. And what if each one of those people reached 1 person… We would very quickly be 600.
Now, obviously we could be faithful for the next five years and not see one more convert… Our job is not to secure results or to bring about fruitfulness… Our job is to Faithfully share the gospel… but we should certainly prepare for God to bring the rain.
If our 150 church members are faithful to share the gospel over the next year… Then we are very soon going to run out of space in this facility…
Even if we steward this property the Lord has blessed us with to the best of our ability and we built a new sanctuary and we expanded the parking and so on… this church in this location could never exceed 300 people if we wanted to keep gathering together in one service.... that means even with a $800,000 build Project…we could still only reach about 2% of St. Rose, LA and gather them together on this property for worship.
SO what do we do… if the Lord continues to grow our church?...
Well.... first of all… we need the Spirit of God to lead us just as he led the church at Antioch.
I think we need the Spirit of the Lord to guide us and to speak clearly…
I think he will set apart some of us to be sent out of this church to go start more churches in locations where churches are needed…
For some of us… that may mean going to the other side of the globe to countries who desperately need healthy churches.
For some of us… that may mean moving to another place in the river parishes to help start a new work.
I dream of a day where we have sister churches throughout the river parishes and the New Orleans metro area where we know the Bible is being preached.
We can look back over the last 7 years and be amazed at what God has done.
The Antioch church could look back and be amazed that a church had been planted in their midst.
But we should also look forward to the next 7 years.. We should dream big dreams about how God might expand his kingdom in this city and in people groups around the world through us.
It is right and good to have a holy ambition to please the Lord by making his name known among all the nations. It is what he has called us to.
So where does that leave us this morning?
What do we do in response to these concepts and to this example that Antioch is for us in the Scriptures?

#1 Slay Your Pride

It is a right and good to want to be faithful to the Lord… and it is good and right to want to see God do great things through you…
but if you think the mission of God is primarily about what one church can accomplish or about some great thing that you as an individual can accomplish for the Lord.... be careful.
If there is one thing that you need to learn well right now if you are going to be useful in the mission of God… its this… the mission of God is not about you.
Its not about making a name for our church.
Its not about making a name for yourself.
Its not about proving your worth and value…
Jesus justified you with his own blood on the cross of crucifixion and he doesn’t need you to go on adding to what he has done.
Paul and Barnabas were selected for that particular task and a lot of other people in the room were not selected for that particular task.
On the flip side…, Paul and Barnabas were not so important that Antioch could not survive without them.
The moment should have been a humbling one for everyone involved. God is building his church through his people.
The mission of God is primarily about what God is doing in us and through us.
Slay your pride.

#2 Sacrifice Your Preferences

I am sure there were a lot of people in the church at Antioch who would have preferred listening to Barnabas and Paul teach… but now they were being sent out to another place.
But apparently the church at Antioch was more primarily about their mutual responsibility to one another under the word of God… then it was about any one particular leader.
If you are the kind of person who comes to church and listens to the teacher, and listens to the music…, and then you get in the car and give everything a rating on how “good” it was today according to your entertainment level… and you go on about your week never to engage with the community of faith again… then your not a member of the body of Christ… you are a consumer of spiritual goods once a week at best.
members of the body of Christ sacrifice preferences for the furtherance of the kingdom of God in each other’s lives and to the ends of the earth.
I love you and I have grown to love St. Rose as a place… but this was not my top 5 places in the world to move to when I was 24 Years old.
Its not in my top 5 today as a 31 year old.
I’m just going to be honest with you guys… I would rather live in the North Georgia mountains where I am from…
Perhaps Paul would have rather lived in Tarsus… or perhaps he would have rather lived in Antioch…
But the Christian life is not primarily about my preferences… I will have an eternity to enjoy the clean mountain air.
But I only have a short time to follow the Spirit’s leading in expanding the Kingdom of God in this life.

#3 Steward the Opportunities God Gives You Today

This applies both to the impatient person in the room and to the sort of stagnant person in the room.
To the impatient let me say this:
I know there are several seminary students in the room.
I know there are a lot of eager and hungry young people.
You want to change the world. You want to plant a church. You want to go to the nations.
Let me just point this out to you. The Spirit of God spoke and set apart the two people in the church with the most experience being faithful with what God had already given them.
Paul had been making disciples and sharing the gospel for 13 years since the resurrected Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus.
Barnabas had been serving the church sacrificially since he sold property and gave the proceeds to the apostles in Jerusalem back in ACT’s chapter 4.
If you want to see God do great things in your life… steward the opportunities he has put before you right now.
Too many young people are eager to go oversees to be missionaries though they have never led a soul to faith in Jesus and there is very little evangelistic fruit in their lives right now.
Too many young men are eager to be pastors of big churches though they have never made a disciple to make more disciples.
Now to the stagnant let me say this:
Every day you have an opportunity to prepare for what God might call you to.
Study your Bibles today like you will be called upon to teach it to someone tomorrow.
Live your life as a disciple-maker now. You may never be called to leave St. Rose…, but you may be discipling someone who will.
Older saints… get to know the younger saints… pour into their life.. you may be pouring into someone who will one day translate the Bible for an unreached people group on the other side of The world.
Nursery workers… you may be changing the diaper of a little girl who will get the gospel to women in the deepest jungles you don’t even know exist.

#4 Seek the Spirit’s Leading

God interrupted the worship in Acts 13.
They were praying, fasting, worshipping, fellow shipping… and God moved.
I don’t know how this looked.... the text just says, “the Holy Spirit said”
Does that mean the Spirit spoke audibly?
Does that mean the Spirit just spoke to one person and then that person told everybody else… I have no clue.
Here is what I do know that we learn from this text.
Spiritual direction was sought through prayer
Spiritual direction was sought through fasting
Spiritual direction was confirmed by the whole church.
If you want to be led by the Spirit as an individual… walk in the streams of grace that God has provided.
Pray consistently.... daily .... sporadically… sometimes strategically and intensely through fasting. .
And then confirm the Spirit’s leading by seeking the counsel of other Spirit-filled people.
If you think God is telling you to do something… but there is no other Spirit-filled person in your life that affirms what your feeling and thinking.... you are probably the one jumping the gun.
If we want to be led by the Spirit corporately then we as a congregation will need to take times of concentrated prayer and fasting in the coming days of church life.
I don’t know when the day will come… but we as a congregation will have to face several decisions in the coming years.
Will we build another building on this property so that we can continue to gather together as God adds to our number as he pleases.
When will we plant another church and if we do, who will go?
We are going to have to spend a lot of time on our knees… but what a glorious thought.…
We can look back at the last 7 years and we can marvel at the grace God has poured out upon us. We can marvel at the people who have come to faith and the church that has been planted in this place… but the journey has only just begun....
Lets look up and look around and lets look forward to the next 7 years.
What if God so perfectly arranged the details of St. Rose Community Church being started… but in doing so he had his eyes set on a little village in Timor Leste of Southeast Asia… where members of St. Rose Community Church were going to labor in the church planting and Bible translating work that would get the gospel to a whole people group for the first time.
What if God is working in our church but he has his eyes on partnerships that would develop with churches in Luling, Norco, Laplace, Boutte, Morgan City, Uptown, Midtown, Kenner, and Metairie and New Orleans East?
May God build his church through us as we love the Lord, make disciples, and plant churches by his grace and for his glory.
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