As we entered into the process of launching a new movement we quickly found out that the name is significant. Initially this was a silly concept to me (Dan). So, I began reading Acts for some inspiration.
In today’s American Christian subculture Acts 2 is held up as the model church community. You know what? It sounds really nice. However, this church ignored the Jesus mandate to ‘go’.
When persecution hit, they finally went.
I am glad they did because some of them went to a city called Antioch (Acts 11)…
19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews.20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenistst also, preaching the Lord Jesus.21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
The men and women who were scattered were sharing the gospel only with one people group, until the men of Cyrpus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and preached the Lord Jesus to the Hellenists. Something new was happening in Antioch, something that the church in Jerusalem needed to see for itself so they sent Barnabas to check it all out.
When he got there he was overwhelmed by the movement that the Holy Spirit had created.
The next time we see the church at Antioch is Acts 13. We read this,
1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger,t Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.2 While 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.”3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
This moment in the history of the people of God is a game changer. Here we have a leadership team that is diverse and comprised of people who were more dissimilar than they are similar. Jews, Gentiles, different races, different socio-economic statuses, in a word; diverse.
Then they do something that up to this point had not happened. We don’t know of any persecution. What we do know is that these men were gathered in worship, listened to the Holy Spirit, and sent laborers.
The ekklesia at Antioch became a movement launching movement. It is no wonder that they were first called Christians in Antioch, it was the place where we see them most closely following Christ’s command to ‘go’.
What’s in a name? The name of our movement reminds us of the movement launching movement that we want to emulate.