The emerging of the church in Antioch was first mentioned during the persecution of the church in Jerusalem, which served as a base for the apostles. During the persecution that arose about Stephen’s death, the base church was scattered abroad to places like Judea, Samaria, Phenice, Cyprus, and Antioch. This resulted to the fulfilment of Acts 1:8, because to some extent the base church of the apostles in Jerusalem failed to accomplish the task of being witnesses in Judea, Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth. That is; it failed until persecution arose. The Jerusalem church had all kinds of ministries and grew inwardly, but lacked an outward expression of being a witness for the Lord, because its focus was limited to Jerusalem alone. This speaks much of the majority of the present-day church which has lost its focus of influencing communities and the nations, but only seeks inward growth in numbers and personal agendas.
The Antioch church had some distinct characteristics with the Jerusalem church and this makes it a model for the present work of God in the earth today. Though the Jerusalem church had influence, presided over the work, served as a base for the apostles and was a place of accountability, yet the Antioch church demonstrated and functioned as a strong apostolic centre.
‘Antioch Churches’ is a corporate apostolic people that have a sending mentality to release others into the work of the ministry that they are called into. Antioch churches are communities that have moved beyond pastoral priorities to an active involvement in the apostolic work, which is beyond the activities that lock the people of God into the realm of a local assembly. The pastoral mindset is biblically defined as an eldership principle of caring and nurturing the flocks in a locality – this is a pastoral main concern, but the apostolic mindset has the grace to release equipped and matured people into the work under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, unlike the Jerusalem church which was more a camping place. Pastors need to retool for an apostolic pattern in order to receive an assimilation of the present apostolic grace to the Church.
“Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which has been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus” (Acts 13:1-4).
Antioch Churches are those that have moved beyond the limitations of culture and race. They are multi-cultural and multi-racial as this is expressed in leadership. Both Jews and Gentiles shared leadership responsibility over the Church and they reached both communities. Lucius, who was part of the 5 men in leadership, was a black man from Libya in Africa. This applies to Simeon who was called Niger and was also a proselyte from Africa. There was no discrimination. The Antioch church differs from the Jerusalem church which had ethnic limitations because they ministered only to the Jews. Today we are reminiscent of the Jerusalem Church, having divided the church with racism, nepotism, our traditions, our doctrines and denominational barriers. This can be clearly seen in churches that have become tribalistic and racial, as black and white leaders encourage and lead those of the same colour who become predominant in the midst of others. God is calling for a unified body of all races and nations to fulfil His purpose. The pigmentations of our skins should not be an issue, but our hearts.
Antioch churches is focused on raising disciples in fulfilment of the great commission to make disciples of all nations (Acts 11:19-26, Matthew 28:19-20). The focus is not to raise believers, but disciples as we have clearly defined the difference in chapter one of this series. The Antioch church constantly discipled others into the ministry and within a period of a year plus, they were able to release their finest leaders into an external work without their absence having any effect on the local centre. This speaks of stability and focus, because the Antioch church was not built towards personality.
Antioch churches have a team-work approach to ministry and leadership. This is a biblical pattern that is very effective in accomplishing any vision. True biblical model of church government is not the “Moses Principle” of one man running everything, but it has always been the presbytery principle where there is a plurality of elders – a team ministry approach of the five-fold ministry. The Antioch church received the five-fold ministry gifts of the apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastors and teachers (Acts 13). This is what makes the Antioch church a strong apostolically structured centre that gave room for the release of each ministry gifts to function without any conflict of interest. It was not about the apostles or the prophets or the teachers only, but it was a corporate five-fold ministry functioning to accomplish the plan of God. The Antioch church was governed by multiple ministries that were recognized; Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Saul (Paul) and Manaen who was a Jewish aristocrat brought up with Herod the tetrarch. These were the 5 key leaders administrating the Antioch church. The five-fold ministry gifts were present in the leadership that was responsible in the management of the Antioch church.
There must be an alignment in leadership pattern – (the five-fold ministry must be fully embraced and set in order to function freely). We are in a transitional season that requires the local church to shift into a five-fold ministry model of operation. We have spoken much about this, but the application of the principles has been slow and the characters have not been fully formed. The reason why there is such a great level of immaturity in the church is because we have not fully recognized and received the five-fold ministry that the Lord has given to us. The result of this negligence has resulted in immaturity, absence of unity and ignorance of the purposes of God. The fact remains that if we are ignorant of the primary purposes of God and continue to minister and build in the old pattern, we will go into error. We must move beyond our pastoral priority to an active involvement in the apostolic work, a work that is beyond the activities of the local assembly in building the house of God and establishing His Kingdom on earth.
The Antioch church was characterized by their giving to God. They were generous in sending relief to the brethren in Judea by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. They did this according to their ability in response to the prophetic ministry that signified that there should be a great dearth throughout the entire world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar (Acts 11:27-30). Every local church must adopt this principle and abound in the grace of giving. There is no church that has nothing to give. If we have a vision for the establishment of an Antioch church, then our provision will be greatly determined by this grace. The measure of our vision determines the measure of God’s provision to us.
The Antioch church was a strong priestly ministry that ministered to God (Acts 13:2). The priestly ministry is a primary focus of our assignment in the earth. It is first about our devotion to God before our service to the people. The effectiveness of our ministry to the people is a result of our commitment to minister first to God. The priestly ministry is first our devotion to God which is expressed in our prayers, worship and intercession. This is the secret of hearing the voice of God and walking in obedience to His divine instruction.
Antioch churches are territorial churches. They are strategically positioned to be gate keepers in the city. They keep watch over activities in the region. They have governmental authority at their disposal to enforce Kingdom purposes. Antioch churches are governmental churches that have a Kingdom perspective with the ability to impact and influence their region and the earth as agents of change. We must become a spiritual government and a pattern in our region. This is clearly seen in the expression of the Antioch church because the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26c). Antioch was a discipleship training centre for believers to be developed, equipped and released. In Antioch these believers who became disciples were called Christians. It was not the Lord that called the disciples Christians, neither was it the apostles, but it was the world that called them Christians because of the expression of their faith and lifestyle that was having an influence in the community and beyond. As an Antioch patterned church, we must be strategically positioned in a region to invade the market-place community and economic Babylon to plunder it for the Kingdom of God.
The desire of God is to raise a prototype of an Antioch church that has significantly changed its status quo to affect the old system. There must be a new work that is established or re-structured in the region, after the pattern of an Antioch church that is governmental, to impact and influence cities and nations for the Kingdom of God. These churches will become governmental churches that are local ministries with a global vision that seeks to reach beyond. The present faith level of the church must increase to a measure of influence, a measure to reach beyond. As well as being a local church family like the Jerusalem church, we should also have a worldwide vision like the Antioch church.
The Antioch church is a Kingdom church that was built apostolically and carried the gospel message of the Kingdom to regions beyond, because it was apostolic by birth, vision and function. If our present day church is not kingdom, then it is not apostolic, because the goal and message of the apostolic is the kingdom (Matthew 10:1-7). We must also send out apostolic teams to reach the nations. This is a pattern of an Antioch church. Presently God is releasing “heavenly patterns” for establishing His church in the earth that will manifest His Kingdom and sovereignty like the Antioch church. There is a need for us to reform.
Copyright © 2017 by Israel Onoriobe
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