A Biblical Model for Vital Churches

Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-3; 15:1-3, 30-4

1.   Vital churches are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

            The church at Antioch was empowered by the Holy Spirit.
            1. 11:24 Their leader was full of the Holy Spirit.
                        “(Barnabas) was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith…”
            2. 11:28 A visiting preacher prophesied by the Holy Spirit.
                        “(Agabus) stood up and predicted by the Spirit…”
            3. 13:2 The Holy Spirit spoke to the church in worship.
                        “As they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said…”
Southern Baptists must repent of self-effort to produce healthy churches and seek empowering by the Holy Spirit.

2.   Vital churches have strong leaders. 

            The church at Antioch had strong leaders (who worked in partnerships and teams).
            1. 11:23 Barnabas came from Jerusalem to investigate – then became the leader.
                        “When he arrived…he encouraged all of them to remain true to the Lord”
            2. 11:26 Saul (or Paul) emerged as a significant church leader.
                        “(Barnabas) brought (Paul) to Antioch. For a whole year they…taught…”
            3. 13:1 The church had a diverse leadership team.

                        “Barnabas, Simeon…, Lucius…, Manaen…, and Saul”
            4. 13:2-3 Barnabas and Paul formed the first missionary team.
                        “Set apart from Me Barnabas and Saul…they sent them off.”
            5. 15:2 Paul and Barnabas had serious disagreements with false teachers.
                        “Paul and Barnabas…engaged them in serious argument and debate…”
            6. 15:39 Paul and Barnabas had a serious disagreement over John Mark.
                        “There was such a sharp disagreement that they parted company…”
            7. Galatians 2:11-14 Paul had a serious disagreement with Peter.
                        “(Paul) opposed him (Peter) to his face…in front of everyone…”
Southern Baptists must encourage strong leaders to take risks, stand up for core doctrines, and confront people whose behavior compromises our mission. Strong leaders are balanced by working in partnerships or teams.

3. Vital churches innovate to advance the gospel.

The church at Antioch innovated to advance the gospel.
1. 11:20 The church was started by innovative evangelists.
“Some of them…began speaking to the Hellenists.”
            2. 11:26 The Antioch believers were the first to be called Christians.
                        “…the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”
3. 13:3 The church initiated the first widespread, intentional missionary effort.
            “…they sent them off.”
4. 15:40 The church turned a serious conflict into missionary advance.
            “Then Paul chose Silas and departed, after being commended to the grace of the
            Lord by the brothers.”
Southern Baptists must facilitate and reward innovation to advance the gospel while avoiding fads that titillate, amuse, or otherwise distract us from our mission.

4. Vital churches focus on making disciples.

            The church at Antioch developed people into transformed disciples.
            1. 11:21   The church started (almost entirely) by conversion growth.
                        “…a large number who believed turned to the Lord.”
            2. 11:26   The church had a vigorous teaching ministry.
                        “For a whole year (Paul and Barnabas) met with the church and taught…”
            3. 15:1-2 The church confronted false doctrine.
                        “…after Paul and Barnabas had engaged them in serious argument and debate…
                        Paul and Barnabas and some others (went) to the apostles and elders in
                        Jerusalem concerning this controversy.”
            4. 11:17, 15:32 The church eagerly hosted guest preachers and teachers.
                        “Some prophets…from Jerusalem…one of them, named Agabus…”
                        “Judas and Silas, encouraged…them with a long message…”
Southern Baptists must intensify our efforts at disciple-making, developing strategies to grow churches by transforming lives over time.

5. Vital churches give themselves away.

            The church at Antioch was a generous church.
            1. 11:29 The church gave an offering to its critics.
                        “(they) determined to send relief to the brothers who lived in Judea.”
            2. 13:2-3 The church gave its best leaders for missionary service.
                        “Set apart from me Paul and Barnabas…they sent them off.
Southern Baptists must challenge churches to give themselves away, believing Jesus’ principle of losing your life to find it has a corporate application.
Jeff Iorg
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