In our Sunday morning youth Bible study we are going through the book of Acts. We are seeing the church begin, expand and engage its world. It is good to make comparisons and contrasts to today’s church from the Book of Acts. Not for the sake of complaining and tearing down the church. We have enough of that! But, for the goal of becoming a more healthy, effective and functioning body of believers that God can use for His glory. I am praying for my church and ministries I’m involved with have a fresh touch by God’s Spirit to this end. I know I cannot do it with my own wisdom, skills, strength and definitely not my looks. We are helpless without God’s Holy Spirit to work and bring renewal in our life and church.
One author says this, “The Acts has so much to say to our half-hearted and cold blooded Christianity in the western world. It rebukes our preoccupation with buildings and ministerial pedigree, our syncretism and pluralism, our lack of expectancy and vibrant faith. As such it is a book supremely relevant for our time.”
Below are some characteristics I found from Acts 13:1-3 that begin missionary movements and are reflective of healthy churches. I am going to keep these in front of me as ministry and leadership goals.
1. There was foundational discipleship. Antioch was a home base for Christianity, being the first place believers were called Christians (11:26). The church at Antioch was a refuge to persecuted Christians (11:19). It was also a place of faith instruction for new believers, like Saul/Paul (11:26). Even more, the believers at Antioch showed Christian compassion and generosity to those in need by providing famine relief to Jerusalem, hundreds of miles away (11:29), and spreading the gospel through sending missionaries (13:1-3). All of this arose from the congregation as a whole, not hired staff doing the work of ministry. Antioch was a healthy, stable foundation from which effective ministry could be established and advanced.
2. There was developed leadership. At the very least there were 5 leaders who were said to be prophets and teachers. These men were recognized with specific giftings that aided the church to fulfill its mission and vision. The leadership was shared and diverse, representative of the larger Church. Barnabas was from Cyprus, Simeon probably from African regions, Lucius from Cyrene, Manaen was upper class related to the Herods, and Saul from Tarsus. They had varied backgrounds yet God blended them together to accomplish his world-wide mission.
3. There was authentic worship. Vital to the church’s mission was corporate worship. Noted elements in this atmosphere for worship included fasting, suggesting intense focus on God for specific purposes, and prayer which was reciprocal communication as the Holy Spirit spoke to the church. Thirdly, their worship was faith responsive as they acted on the Spirit’s leading, commissioning individuals to service. Antioch gave two of their best leaders for the cause of missions, no less! In all, worship has a broad meaning in the OT & NT but it is interesting to note these three specific elements.
4. There was evangelistic fervor. Antioch was hub for sending missionaries into regions where the gospel was vacant. This church took Jesus’ command to disciple the nations seriously and at all costs (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). Their strategy is important as they started with those who they considered receptive to their message, in Jewish synagogues. However, they also engaged people and places that were hostile to the gospel. Their evangelistic zeal shows how God uses obedience and availability over talent and personality (consider the fact that Saul was once a persecutor of Christians!).
 Michael Green, Thirty Years That Changed The World, p.5.