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Antioch Principles – informal leadership

July 11, 2015

Luke tells us that the church at Antioch exploded into life when “some of the men from Cyprus and Cyrene who had come to Antioch started talking to Greeks” Acts 11. Somehow these people had not understood that the good news was for Jews, didn’t keep it in the synagogue, and `accidentally` shared it with Greeks.

In organisational terms this was a disaster, the leaders in Jerusalem were already struggling to support a movement that had spread – with the persecution – all around the Jewish communities in many countries. So they send Barnabas, who I assume was supposed to be bringing some order into the chaos, this doesn’t happen, instead when he arrives he encourages the Greeks, and rushes off to find Paul to help the thing grow further.

By this time they have a “great number of people” two times over (v21, 24) and it should surely be time to impose some order on this movement, instead we find that the church was led by just 5 people, a leadership team yes, but inadequate for the thousands of people who were now part of this church! Not only was it an inadequately small team, but it also lacked some key players; Paul describes the 5 essentials of a leadership team in Ephesians – Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, Teachers. With all these gifts there is a dynamic and a balance that will help keep a church on track – but Antioch only had “Prophets and teachers” (13:1)

What is most revealing is what is not in this story. This first non-jewish church is exploding into life without buildings, without programmes (other than Barnabas and Paul meeting with the church to teach them in 11:26 – but even then they were sent to take the gift to Jerusalem), without leadership, without structures… they didn’t have the synagogue structures to rely on, and there is no evidence that they copied the Jewish pattern anyway – (which is why there is a further argument about how they are doing church in Acts 15!)

This does seem to be a genuine peoples movement, with the only leadership and direction coming from what happens in their worship and fasting. More of that in the next Antioch Principle.

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