It is a wonderful thing when a Church has its Gospel Mandate right. That is when “the main thing is the main thing and remains the main thing”. That was Dick Lucas’ saying. He was the rector of St. Helen’s in London for many years. Under the good hand of God, he was able to put together a good ministry team to support his expositional ministry. In doing this, they were able to build a healthy Church, reaching many people from all age groups for the Gospel. Coupled to this, they were able to impact large parts of England for the Gospel as well as start ministries to support missions into other continents!
When I read the next passage in Acts, I feel that the Church at Antioch had as their Church Motto … “Keep the main thing the main thing and then the main thing will remain the main thing”! Look at this:
Ac 13:1 In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 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.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
1) Their ministry team … there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.
(1) A reminder … these prophets spoke God’s Word to the people. The Scriptures of the New Covenant were being written to be added to that of the Old. During this process God used the office of “prophet” as a supplement to that of the teacher. One could say that the prophetic office here was that of evangelism and the teaching office was that of education … discipleship.
(2) God provides for the need of the Church that is seriously Gospel. When the Gospel remains the main thing God supports that ministry through providing the support team required to fulfil His mandate.
(3) Preaching the Gospel for winning souls is insufficient. There needs to be a teaching ministry. By this I mean discipleship. Our Lord instructed us:
Mt 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Why do we get it so wrong? Why do we use the Church for just about everything else than what God wants His Church to be used for? These verses inform us exactly what the main thing that the Church needs to be doing.
(a) “Make” disciples implies evangelism.
(b) “Teaching” implies discipleship. We cannot have one without the other … yet we tend to do just that. Evangelism and no discipleship or discipleship without evangelism. The former leads to half baked Christians and the latter leads to unsaved Church members. Our Lord Jesus is Almighty God and He knows what is good for His Church as well as us as individual Christians.
(c) What is so vital to grasp and understand is that all teaching (discipling) needs to be Bible based! Jesus said … “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” If Jesus told them to teach what He had commanded them and if He is the Word of God, I am certain He commanded that the whole Bible be taught to converts. This is not to say we will grasp everything in the Bible … generally we scratch the surface … but surely, after a few years of sitting under expositional preaching where the pastor expounds the Books of the Bible in Church Services and Bible Studies, the congregation will understand all the important doctrines as well as Christian responsibility towards God, Church, Family, Society, Finances, Opposite Sex, Employment, Politics, etc. A great help when available is to participate in a small group where specific doctrines, grouped according to maturity or the lack thereof are provided.
2) Their seeking guidance from the Lord Jesus.
Ac 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting.
The concept of “worshipping” here seems to imply or include prayer. Prayer is an act of worship. But note … they were fasting at the same time. Coupling these two aspects together we find that …
(1) This was an act of preparation for seeking guidance from God for their desired missionary activities. They wanted to spread into other countries to start reaching the “ends of the world” (known world) in their time. This is a very important necessity before any mission activity, be it within your area, province, country, continent or other continents. Without knowing the mind of God, it would be futile to go … directionless. Sadly, doing missions without God’s input, empowerment and directive leads to failure.
(2) Their passion to reach the world was of such a nature that they strengthened their prayers by fasting. In other works they committed themselves to abstain from the luxuries and necessities of life to seek God’s face and help with all passion. Once again we see that fasting had a purpose … not to get what I want but to find God’s mind, will and help. When the motive and purpose is the glory of God. God works in amazing ways.
3) Their missionary passion.
Ac 13:2 the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
God saw into their hearts. He saw their sincerity. He knew their motive was His glory and in some supernatural way, the Holy Spirit confirmed their desire for missions as approved by God as He set apart two key men … Barnabas and Saul, both called prophets, elders, teachers and evangelists … with Saul also being appointed as an apostle by Jesus.
4) Their support of the Spirit’s choice.
Ac 13:3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
After their time of prayer and fasting was completed, they prayed for the missionaries and dispatched them for duty.
Lord, we live in a world where the Gospel is prevented or rejected. We need You to appoint and raise up missionaries to go into all the world. Amen.