November 12 – Acts 13:1-3


Main Focus: To grow into a multi-ethnic community, we must be relationally strategic.

In Acts 13:1-3 we read about the church in Antioch, which is a great case study in the practices of a multi-ethnic church. In the first century, Antioch the city was a radically diverse community along ethnic, socio-economic, and cultural lines, and Antioch the church reflected the city. In turning to Acts 13, we hope to see how the early church led a diverse community with diverse leadership, and to learn something about how to prioritize our own relational enterprises.

In Acts 13:1-3, Luke describes the leadership team of the Antiochene church, and this team was made up of men with varying ethnicities, skin tones, points of origin, and economic backgrounds. You’ll see below, we’ve got another Discussion Primer this week to help make sense of the place names and summarize this background. Thus we’ll see how the church was organized under this elder team in a way that would demonstrate unity in diversity, which bears credible witness to the gospel. Now, a word on how we prioritize organizational diversity. When it comes to leadership, we might think, “diversity shouldn’t be a factor; just choose the most qualified leaders.” But such an assumption tends to overlook the sort of intentionality that is required to reach the diverse communities in which we live, and misses the direct connection between the leadership of the church and the community life of the church. If we hope to grow in our expression of the multi-ethnic kingdom of God, this will have to find expression at every level of our church.

But this also has something to say about how God uses our peer-level, demographic-crossing relationships. In discussion, we’ll turn to Acts 11:19-26 to look at the origins of the church in Antioch. There we see average, everyday Christians going where God led them, building relationships with folks who did and didn’t look like them, and seeing God use this to build his church. In this text we also see a highly realistic story unfold; as the diverse Antiochene church began to take root, the predominately Jewish church in Jerusalem sent a representative, Barnabas, to investigate. They didn’t know such a thing could exist! They were still coming to grips with how the good news of Jesus could reach peoples of different ethnicities, and how all these people could be knit together in one people of God.

Enter Barnabas. He journeyed to Antioch and, upon seeing this new Spirit-filled community, rejoiced in their existence and encouraged them in the Lord. And this, as the text says, is because he was a faithful man full of the Spirit. So too we, as the Holy Spirit works in our lives to deepen our faith, might meet new iterations of the body of Christ which transcend our assumed man-made barriers, church communities filled with people we had never imagined could be together, and we can rejoice that God unites what would otherwise only remain separated. Again, this demonstrates the unity in diversity that bears credible witness to the gospel.

Finally, we’ll close out discussion by looking back on the Divine Community series as a whole, talking about what God has laid on our hearts through the course of the series. With only one more week left, we hope this backwards look helps us begin to land the plane on our series and reach some resolution on how God intends to work in each of us through it in the weeks and months to come.

Discussion primer:This passage describes the leaders of the church at Antioch, a large Greek-speaking city several hundred miles north of Jerusalem, and at first glance you might miss the diversity of this group. Barnabas was a Greek-speaking Jew from the island of Cyprus; Simeon was called Niger (NAI-jer) for his dark skin; Lucius was from the Roman province of Cyrene on the north coast of Africa; Manaen grew up fabulously wealthy in the house of a Roman governor; and Saul (also known as Paul) was a Greek-speaking Jew from Tarsus, a city in the same region as Antioch.

Questions for Discussion

• Could someone read Acts 13:1-3 for us?

• Take a moment to read the Discussion Primer above.

• How can that background help us understand what the church at Antioch was like?

• Now, could someone read Acts 11:19-26?

• How does this help us understand how the church at Antioch came about?

• How did the Jewish church in Jerusalem, and Barnabas, react to this new church in Antioch?

• How can this passage help us understand how God might use our friendships across demographic lines?

• Over the course of our Divine Community, what do you think God has laid on your heart when it comes to relating to folks who are different from you?

• How do you hope God continues to grow our community group and church in this area?

• Prayer Prompt: Ask God to use us wherever he sends us and to help our church reflect his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.