Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Antioch: Model for the Effective Church

Earlier this month I was re-introduced to the importance of the early church at Antioch by Dr. Samuel Vassel, pastor of the Bronx Bethany Church of the Nazarene. In a passionate sermon, Pastor Sam ignited my curiosity that day (along with the rest of the congregation). I want to spend a few days posting about this church from Acts 11 and 13 and in the process, help us learn some lessons that are applicable to all churches today. In addition to Scripture, I will be referencing Pastor Sam’s work, materials from Dr. Ken Hemphill, and various other ideas.

Antioch was a major commercial city in the time of the early church. The third-largest city in the Roman Empire, it was located about 300 miles north of Jerusalem, about 20 miles form the Mediterranean Sea. First century Antioch was a genuine melting pot. Its 500,000 inhabitants joined western and eastern cultures, Greek and Roman cultures, Semitic Arab and Persian influences. The city also contained a large Jewish population, most likely larger than even Jerusalem. Amid all the sophistication, commerce, and culture, Antioch indulged itself as a very visible representation of Roman vice.

Yet in just a few years the young church had outpaced the church at Jerusalem. Why?

History lesson aside for a moment, what city today is “Antioch”? Pastor Sam makes a good case for New York City - and I agree. But to a certain degree, almost any urban area has characteristics of Antioch - and therefore we have an opportunity to learn about ministry in YOUR city.

And what characteristics must any church wanting to serve a modern Antioch possess? That's where we begin our journey tomorrow.

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