The Antioch Blueprint: how to keep your church on track

In a post earlier this month I mentioned that there are quite a few things with the potential to complexify church life.

  • Church governance – elders, bishops or congregationally led?
  • Worship and the regulatory principle
  • Is it communion or the Lord’s Supper?
  • And how often should we observe it?
  • Drums on Sunday morning
  • Dress codes
  • is it time to change the carpet?
  • What colour should the new one be?
  • Should the evening service be cancelled in July and August?
  • Is it OK to screen the World Cup on the big screen in the ‘sanctuary’?
  • Should it be called a ‘sanctuary’ anyway?
  • The coffee rota
  • Hymn books or projector?
  • Church prayer meeting or small groups?
  • Women elders?
  • The cleaning rota
  • Should the pews be replaced with chairs?
  • What colour should they be?
  • Committees
  • Sub-committees
  • Why has the minister’s son pierced his ear?
  • Who’s going to organise the summer picnic?
  • Can we have coffee after the morning serivce?
  • Bible translations
  • Who should we baptise and how much water should we use?
  • Should the preacher talk for more than 25 minutes?

You’ve probably experienced a few of these along the way.

The problem is that, however valid any of these issues may be – and some of them are clearly more significant than others – it’s easy to lose sight of the church’s mission.

It seems to me that it’s worth thinking about the the way the NT presents the 1st Century church at Antioch, in modern-day Turkey. The church there stands out for several reasons. Not only was it the first place where the disciples were called ‘Christians’, it seems also to have been the first church with a significant Gentile population (which brought its own set of issues to be dealt with – see Acts 15). It also came to function as a launchpad for mission.

Here is what you might call ‘The Antioch Blueprint.’

  1. Reaching – the church got started (Acts 11) as scattered disciples spoke the word and preached the Lord Jesus.
    • Does your church have a clear strategy for reaching?
    • Are your people ‘gospel people’ who talk about Jesus wherever they are?
  2. Building – the new believers were built up by the encouraging ministry of Barnabas and by the teaching ministry of Barnabas and Saul; later there were several prophets and teachers in the church.
    • Does your church value teaching that is delivered with accuracy, clarity and relevance?
  3. Sending – the world for this new church did not stop at the front gate. First, they responded to a prophetic word to send material relief to their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem; later, again in response to the Holy Spirit’s direction, they sent off Barnabas and Saul (probably their two key men) on mission.
    • Does the world according to your church go beyond the front gate?
    • How are you part of the big picture of what God is doing in different places?

Reaching – building – sending.

Having these three concepts front and centre will not mean that your church never has to talk about Bible translations, dress codes or church governance, but it might help keep the main thing the main thing.

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