The Focused Mission of the Early Church

Acts 11 offers us a compelling peek into the early Church in Antioch. Founded amidst the persecution in Jerusalem, Antioch quickly rose to prominence. As the third-largest city of its time, following Rome and Alexandria, Antioch was home to nearly 50,000 Jews. The Gentiles, or non-Jews, were initially out of focus until some trailblazing men from Cyprus and Cyrene introduced them to the Gospel. What are some factors that fueled the growth of this church? What can we learn for today?

Aggressive Outreach to the Lost
What stands out in Acts 11 is the church’s passionate outreach. The zealous preaching of the good news, as mentioned in Acts 11:20b, led to an overwhelming response. Numerous believers were drawn to the Lord. The impact was so profound that Barnabas needed Saul's assistance in managing the growth and outreach efforts.

Grace Focused, God-Praising Worship
Acts 11:26 highlights that the believers frequently assembled, emphasizing the importance of community worship. Worship was not just a ritual but an avenue to express gratitude and reverence for God’s salvation. It was their reset button, reorienting them to what truly mattered.

Warm, Inclusive Fellowship
Inclusion was another hallmark of the Antioch Church. Acts 11 paints a vivid tapestry of Jews and Gentiles worshiping side by side. Despite the vast differences between their cultural backgrounds, they were united by their faith in Christ. The barriers that once seemed insurmountable were effortlessly obliterated by the love of Jesus.

Discipleship and Benevolence
Acts 11:26 calls out a critical aspect - discipleship. The congregation was not just about being Christians but about maturing in their faith, growing, and becoming more Christ-like each day. This growth trajectory, as reinforced by Ephesians 4:12-13, was central to their collective spiritual journey. Service was in the DNA of the Antioch Church. Acts 11:29-30 underscores their commitment to benevolence. They were not insular but extended their support to believers in Judea, further consolidating the broader family of Christ.

What Can Cornerstone Learn from Antioch?
The early church's emphasis on growth serves as an inspiration for modern congregations. Acts 2, 4, 5, 6, and 9 celebrate the numerical growth of the early church, crediting the divine hand behind it. Drawing parallels to today's context, the Cornerstone family has seen God's blessings. Families joining, baptisms, and the power of live streaming bear testimony to God's grace in action in our troubled world. Just like the early believers did, the Cornerstone family must continuously and aggressively reach out to the lost, centering Jesus in all endeavors. The early church's core message revolved around Jesus, as captured in various scriptures from Acts and 1 Corinthians. The message emphasized Jesus' role as the Messiah, His death, burial, and resurrection.

The church at Antioch, with its growth, outreach, worship, inclusion, discipleship, and service, is a beacon for churches all over. It beckons us to mold ourselves in its likeness, making Jesus the cornerstone, reaching out selflessly, and being catalysts for divine transformation in the world.

Matthew Allen

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