SIMPLE TRUTH: My favorite church

Published 9:47 am Monday, March 31, 2014

By Charles Christmas

As you might expect, I have a broad, large and deep commitment to my church and plan that this remains ‘til my last breath. I have had a large commitment to some local church since I was 13 years old or younger. But I want to tell you about my favorite local church, which I never attended, and why it is my favorite.

It is the church at Antioch, which we are told about in Acts 11:19-30 and 13:1-4. Each believer and each church can receive excellent help as I review why this is my favorite church. I will explain in six brief statements.

This church came into being through God using lay persons only. A group of lay persons left Jerusalem because of persecution and went as far as Antioch. They shared their faith in the Lord Jesus as best they could to persons in Antioch. The Bible says, “And the hand of the Lord was with them and a great number believed and turned to the Lord Jesus.” So here the Bible speaks loudly and clearly that God intended to use any willing and committed believer in the church to be his instrument in a saving experience for others.

The Church had a quality pastoral leader. The Bible says about Pastor Barnabas, “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.” What more could I want in a pastor? He had other qualities and gifts, as we see what kind of a congregation developed.

This was a teaching church, which not only produced professions of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ but produced disciples, or followers, of the Lord Jesus. Discerning the need of a broad and quality teaching ministry, the Bible says the pastor went to Tarsus and brought Paul back to help with the teaching task. “So for a whole year Barnabas and Paul met with the congregation and taught great numbers of people.” The teaching impact was so great that “the believers were first called Christians (Christ followers) at Antioch.”

My favorite church became a caring, sharing, giving people. Real believers who are taught will do that. The Bible says of the congregation, “Each believer decided to give according to his ability.” I’m glad my pastor taught tithing (retuning the holy one tenth of my income to the Lord) to my church when I was 13 and had my first paper route. I obeyed it the first time I heard it, and have continued and joyfully done so and more to this day. Many great needs were met by the Antioch church.

My favorite church was a worshipping, praying and fasting church. In Acts 13:2 we are told, “As they worshipped (ministered to) the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit spoke to them.” A worshipping, praying and fasting congregation or group or person are placing themselves in such a relationship to God, that he can and will speak, guide and initiate powerful experiences from which only God can and will get the glory.

My favorite church was willing to give up their most effective leaders to wherever the Holy Spirit was leading. “While they were worshipping (ministering to) the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Paul for the work to which I have called them’” (Acts 13:2). They were liberated and sent out by the church and the Lord on an extensive church planting mission journey. God did such great things through these two church members, they could only report back to the church years later by this recorded experience: “They gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentile world.”

Now, review these six statements as to why Antioch is my favorite. May these speak to you or to your group or to your church as God might lead.

—Charles Christmas is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Thursday.