Ｉ．Background of Antioch Church
1. Base for World Mission
I mentioned several weeks ago about Stephen who was stoned to death when he preached baldly. Since then, persecution started severely.
19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews.
They spread the word only among Jews, but later they began to tell the gospel to Greeks as well.
20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
More and more people were saved, then Barnabas needed an assistant to help teach and lead.
He then remembered Saul (Paul) who once was persecutor, as you all remember, later met Jesus in the light and converted to Christian, and now is an evangelist. Saul has returned to his home town of Tarsus. Barnabas went to search Saul, brought him back to Antioch, and together they served the Lord and the church in Antioch.
2. The name “Christians” given there
In Antioch many people were saved through Barnabas and Saul. Antioch church became the second largest church next to Jerusalem. However, Jerusalem church was destroyed by Roman army in 70AD. Antioch church succeeded and began to send missionaries. In Chapter 13 Paul and Barnabas were sent from this Antioch church. It was beginning of the world mission.
We call Christians who are saved and believed in Jesus as Son of God and Savior. This name “Christian” was first given around 40 AD at Antioch church...it was like a nickname. It originally meant Christ person, belong to Christ, or the Christ Party, meaning followers. It was a good nick name wasn't it?
3. Grace sharing Church
Antioch church was blessed with great teachers like Barnabas and Saul. What kind of role did it take?
In chapter 13 the Antioch church sends missionaries, but before that, church did something else.
27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
Antioch church decided to send gift to needy people after affected by severe famine.
So they collected money and send it to Jerusalem by Barnabas and Saul.
Remark: You see here always “Barnabas and Saul”, Barnabas first and Saul second. Later this order would change.
As Christians, not only receiving blessing and thanksgiving by the Lord, but also want to give and share grace of God to others.
9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:9-10)
II. Antioch church and JFC
Do you find some similarities between Antioch church and our JFC? I notice several, and now list 3 things
1. Mission centered church
Antioch church was a mission centered church, sending out missionaries.
Barnabas and Saul were first sent from this Antioch church. They made 3 mission trips...every time the church supported, prayed for and sent them out – commissioned. This church, the first missionary sending church, obeyed Lord's command, the Great Commission “Go to the world and tell the gospel to all...” through this church, the world mission started, empowered, and spread around.
JFC is also a mission church.
We have sent many missionaries to Japan in the past. The founder of JFC, Rev. Takashi Matsuda was also a missionary from Japan to Minnesota 40 years ago. He started from nothing.
In our congregation now there are several young men and women wanting to and willing to go to Japan as missionaries. How many of you are willing to go to Japan? Please raise your hand.
JFC is a special church, mission oriented church...JFC is present Antioch church in Minnesota.
Countless Christian churches in the whole world, but mission centered church like JFC is I believe rather rare. Most churches mission is carried out by a pastor or by a missionary. Other people just sit and attend the service...not been involved in any missions. A huge comfort zone is floating there. Go beyond the comfort zone. Your mission awaits for you there.
I know several churches in Japan are called Antioch church, Nagano Antioch church, Yokohama Antioch church,...most of them are mission centered and emphasizing missions. Antioch Mission Organization also exists. It seems that “Antioch” means “Mission”.
We can learn a lot from the Antioch church as represented by Barnabas and Saul. Barnabas' personality reflects this Antioch church by itself. I like this man, Barnabas as I mentioned before. I also like this Antioch church as well. Both, Barnabas and Antioch church, are hard working, supportive, encouraging, compassionate, full of God's love, carrying out important role in the first century, but not showing off. And of course they both are mission minded.
2. International church
In Antioch church both Greek and Hebrew were spoken....a bilingual church like us.
At first only Jews were evangelized but later, Greeks were involved. v20
20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.
Both Greeks and Jews were in the congregation.
In JFC both English and Japanese are spoken as you already know. It was before focused in Japanese people as the name tells us “Japanese Fellowship church” this Japanese is regarding people of Japanese origin, rather than its language. So it was a “church for Japanese people's fellowship”. Recently we have more Americans or English speaking people, than Japanese nationals. So now it is an international bilingual church.
In JFC everything is carried out in both languages... it is a completely bilingual environment..I believe not very many church are like us. I have been to many parts of United States, seeing many so called bi-lingual churches. But they are more like partially bilingual...dual languages. Their messages are partially translated... using headphone to listen to a translator...or having 2 separate services; such like 10am: English service, 11am: Japanese service. I find several churches in Hawaii and Southern California are like that.
Our church JFC is unique, a total bilingual church, from the beginning to the end...service to praise to prayer...
Now look around us, you see international environment here. All different kind of people are gathered every week, some old, some young, men, women, different races, ethnic groups, different cultures, various background, all are put together hwew…. a real meting pot.
This is one of the specialty of our church JFC. Internationally very rich, and totally bilingual church.
3. The Church Contributes to the Community
Antioch church was helping other churches and people in needs. They stretched their hands and share God's love to others. Always looking outward...evangelism, mission, out reach. Help support and donate others are also outward activities. When severe famine hit the area, Antioch church send out money to help people in Jerusalem. v.29, 30
JFC now is collecting support to send it to a church in Kumamoto where was hit by severe earthquake. When Meiko Nakano, wife of Yuichiro Nakano had stroke and fell in tokyo, JFC immediately sent monetary gift. The church has been supporting other people, missionaries, and other churches in the past.
Church is not a place to get your own satisfaction, but to share God's love to others. We need to contribute to our community. We have good deeds just like Antioch church...it is our model church in the first century.
Jerusalem church is a base church, then Antioch church is a satellite church. JFC Minneapolis as a base, and Rochester as a satellite ...I see another similarity here. Both are built by God to serve the community and the mission... sending message to the surrounding community.
We are proud of this wonderful JFC. JFC is a mission church, International church, and contributing church to the community.
Let us introduce this church to other people who don't know about JFC. Invite more and lead more people into JFC.
I always invite anyone who has a little interest in Japan, tell them how great we are..having Japanese language class - taught by professional Japanese language teacher, having Japanese food for luncheon every week, and be involved in Japanese & English language environment and in worship.. This is next best to being in Japan. You can experience Japan in Minneapolis.
You call this mission, I am doing mission every week. Telling people about our church is also our important mission God gave us. Go out of this church, and now all are the mission field.