Becoming an Antioch Church

31 07 2008

God has impressed on me lately the importance of not neglecting the Antioch model so I want to simply introduce some observations and how this tiny, new church plant was responsible for the single greatest church expansion in the history of our faith.

In our effort to plant and grow churches, in the past 50 years we have gone through 3 major model shifts –

Pastoral model – This is where someone with a 5-fold pastoral gift plants a church and stays there, growing and maintaining it for life.  This has and always will ultimately result in the decline of churches because there is no chance for exponential growth and the number of churches is always limited to the number of Pastors.

Evangelistic model – This was kicked off with Bill Hybles church plant in Chicago and has been reproduced a thousand times around the world.  This model is where a 5-fold evangelist plants a church and restructures it around their ability to enfold thousands of people.  If Billy Graham would have planted a church it would have been like this.  These churches tend to be 1000+ but are even more difficult to reproduce then pastoral churches because there are fewer 5-fold evangelists.  This model results in the fast decline in the number of churches the slow decline in the number of church goers and very fast decline in the number of devoted disciples since evangelists do not have the gifts or calling to thoroughly train disciples.

Church planting Churches model – Very recently there has been a call for churches to plant churches.  New churches are both better at evangelism and contextualizing the Gospel in emerging cultures than existing pastoral churches.  While this is smart strategically this model tends to carry with it the same problems as the above two if the model for church being used is based on finding the right 5-fold gifted person.  If they chose a new model (actually an ancient model) not basing a church on a person and his gifting they may become an Antioch church and learn how to reproduce in a way that expands the church.  I have the most hope for this model.

So what is the Antioch Church Model

Acts 13

1In 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. 2While 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.” 3So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

  1. The gathering of prophets and teachers.  It is important for the prophets and teachers of a church to spend time together before the Lord seeking his will for the church
  2. Sending out the most called and gifted of the group.  Any church that wants to see this kind of expansion can NOT be dependent on their most gifted members but must be preparing to build itself up (Eph 4) as they are equipped by those gifted members so they can send their best out and not suffer.
  3. Spiritually and financially support the Apostolic team you are sending out.

I know many of us have been trained not to pay any attention to Acts to find models.  We’ve learned well that what the Spirit of God did in Acts and what the Spirit of God inspired Luke to write in Acts should have no bearing on our models but we should instead follow what the spirit of Brian McLaren or Mark Driscoll says or trust in our own limited understanding of the Bible and our context to discern how to structure the church.  But I believe church structures must flow out of divine revelation and then work toward strategy because it is given to apostles in our day to understand what models and forms will result in the proper functioning of the church.  We cannot and should not divorce form and function because one leads to the other.

I’d encourage you to dig into Antioch and see if these elements are true of you and your church and for the sake of the Kingdom, consider the impact of this tiny, obedient body.

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3 responses

3 08 2008
theologien

I think I like what you point out here, but I too am a little hesitant to say that voila! c’est ici! It is too easy to lay out the Book of Acts on a procrustean bed and make it say what you want it to say. I like this story, too often this is how we do theology.
http://www.anecdote.com.au/archives/2008/07/blind_men_and_t.html

Having said that, I think the point of the Antioch church is found in God’s question in the Temple (Isa. 6): “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”

Isaiah response, the response of the church in Antioch, and ours is the same: “here is am, send me.” It is hearing the Spirit, and then being obedient, not how we listen or do church.

Good post, it stirred my thinking.

3 08 2008
eden2zion

My experience has been people either use Acts as a step-by-step how-to manual or they ignore its examples completely (almost always the latter).

I believe we need to wrestle with it and strive to understand both what they did and why. The Spirit of God has given us these examples and we should not ignore them and I’ve been shocked how I can read book after book of church how-to’s and then God reveals something to me in Acts that provides the best solution to my questions.

But if I point out what one of these books say, people will often not resist, but if I point out a how-to i learned from Acts I find greater resistance. Strange.

By the way, have you heard Keller’s response to the Elephant analogy –

http://mikecheng.wordpress.com/2006/10/12/the-elephant-analogy-tim-kellers-response/

Blessings to you!

22 08 2011
Marion

Never mind the books. Read the Bible, believe it, teach the truth, build ’em up and send ’em out! Then wait for God to refill………

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