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.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:3)
Barnabas and Paul were the first apostles to serve at the church in Antioch. They were also the earliest leaders of this church and the best workers among the believers there. The reason why the Antioch Church developed so quickly is inseparable from the two of them. At this time, the church of Antioch was led by the Holy Spirit to send Barnabas and Paul to preach the word of God. They were both supposed to be leaders who could stand on their own. By just sending one of them out and matching him with an ordinary co-worker, they could serve well together. But God's will was to send them out together.
The Antioch church might have been puzzled by God’s will, but they were also willing to obey and sent their two best leaders to do God’s work elsewhere. Barnabas and Paul might also have been confused by this call to leave Antioch, but they were willing to obey God and leave a mature church to begin something new. Whether it was the Antioch Church or Barnabas and Paul, they all had a vision of the kingdom of God so they were willing to obey God’s leadership. This was why the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch, because they really lived as Christians.
The church lacks workers, and especially excellent workers. Many churches thirst after talented people; they even begin to train workers themselves. But most churches today are far from the churches of Antioch. Because they lack a kingdom mindset, they may be selfish and discriminate against others. They hold on to their workers, regard them as belonging only to their own church and do not regard ministry outside their own church as God’s ministry.
As a result, many churches today are reluctant to send their workers to other places. Even if God has given the church clear leadership, at most this church only sends out the better workers. Some even send out those who are quite ordinary, or the workers that the church does not want. In obedience to God's will, churches should participate in missionary work and have a vision that wants to help other churches. In contrast, only their selfishness is demonstrated. To put it lightly, this is not obedience to God. To put it more seriously, this can prevent the expansion of the kingdom of God.
Not only the church, but many workers today are far from Barnabas and Paul in obedience. Many people are reluctant to leave a church that they have worked hard for many years to build, while others are reluctant to leave a mature and stable church or a comfortable environment. As a result, many people are unwilling to obey God's leadership and go elsewhere to do God's work.
The reason for this selfishness is that they do not really understand what the church of Christ is, or they have less knowledge about ecclesiology. The church is a group of people called by God. Although the tangible church on earth is divided into many local churches, they are all members of a universal church which is intangible. Christ is also the head of the church, and the church is the body of Christ. So all churches in our world belong to the body of Christ. Not only do we belong to the same body of Christ, but we also share a great mission. We serve the one God and read the same Bible.
All the universal churches belong to one church that is invisible. They are the body of Christ, have the same great mission, and serve one God. Why do they distinguish themselves from others and carry out God’s ministry separately? The church should have a broad mind and a vision of the kingdom of God. Wherever God's ministry is, if God calls, believers should obey and be willing to go. As a servant of God, no matter where he is, he is serving God. He should obey God ’s will and dare to leave his or her comfort zone and go to the place where God directs, even if there are unknown challenges. And the God of Immanuel must also be with us.
(Note: The author of this article is a full-time co-worker of a grassroots church in Fujian)
-Translated by Abigail Wu