Jun 21 2010 - "I will build my church..." (Acts 14:22-23)
Paul and Barnabas, having travelled as far as Derbe preaching the Gospel and making disciples, now retraced their steps, returning to Lystra where Paul had been stoned and left for dead, and to Iconium and Antioch. In every town they encouraged the new believers, strengthening their hearts and telling them that the way of the kingdom passes through many trials and persecutions.
Imagine these Christians. They had been believers for only a few months. In every town (with the exception maybe of Derbe), they had seen how the followers of Jesus faced persecution and they knew that they could expect the same. How would these young churches survive?
Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in each of the churches as they passed through, choosing those they believed most able to care for the others. But the elders themselves must have been new to the faith. How would they be able to cope with their responsibilities? We read that with prayer and fasting, Paul and Barnabas laid their hands on them and committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. Paul knew that the future of these churches lay not only in the hands of these inexperienced pastors but, more importantly, in the hands of the Lord. He would build his church, and even trial and persecution would not destroy it.
I am currently in Madagascar. The church in this country went through a period of severe persecution in the nineteenth century. Missionaries had to flee the country and Christians were hunted down and imprisoned. Some were even stoned to death or thrown to their death from cliffs. Yet, far from destroying the church it was strengthened and grew. Without the missionaries, Christians learned to rely on the Lord in whom they had believed.
Paul's missionary methods demand continual study.
In our ministry are we creating a culture of dependence upon ourselves or of dependence upon the Lord? Are we ready to allow Christians who are young in the faith to take on areas of responsibility, teaching them look to the Lord for their help?