Antioch: Make Disciples

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If you have your Bibles let me invite you to open with me to the book of Acts chapter 11.
We are taking a break from our long journey through the gospel of Mark and we are progressing through a mini-series on the mission of our church:
We are spending four weeks in this mini-series because this month marks 7 years since the beginnings of St. Rose Community Church… and after 7 years of ministering together… after next Sunday…, I will be taking my first ever Sabbatical… this will be a three-month period where I take a break from preaching…, and refocus on the Lord, my family, and the future of St. Rose Community Church.
But before doing that, I wanted to remind myself and I wanted to remind us all of why we exist as a church.
The mission statement of our church is this.

Love the Lord. Make Disciples. Plant Churches. By His Grace. For His Glory.

Our aim in this mini-teaching series is to show that that mission statement and our collective mission as a church is not something that we made up.... rather it is a summary of what we see happening in churches from the earliest days of the Christian movement.
The church at Antioch we have been looking at over the past two weeks is a result of disciple-making ministry and they were a church that was engaged in disciple-making ministry.
Acts 11:23–26 ESV
23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
Acts 13:1–3 ESV
1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 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.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Lets Pray
Acts 11:26 (ESV)
....And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
The word Christian was not the primary word that Christians would have called themselves in the early years of the church’s existence.
In fact, no one had used the word “Christian” until it was used as a derogatory term for these Christ followers here in Antioch.
The term Christian was given to them because they talked about Christ continuously and sought to live their lives like Christ consistently.
But if the word “Christian” had not been used until this point in Christian history… what word had been used?
How did the first believers refer to themselves?
Well, the word they would have used, appears in the text more than once here.
Acts 11:26 (ESV)
….. in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
And then Notice that Luke does not even embrace the term “Christians” even after he acknowledges that they were called that.
He chooses rather to keep calling these new believers - disciples.
Acts 11:29 ESV
So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea.
Luke chooses to use this word because Jesus chose this word.
Jesus never used the word Christian, rather he intentionally chose to use the word disciple when referring to those who would become his followers.
He left his disciples with this mission and with this language.
Matthew 28:19–20 (ESV)
19 Go therefore and make disciples....
The Antioch church was a result of the Matthew 28 great commission.
The disciple-making mission had now moved out from Jerusalem and had spread to Antioch.
I want to ask four questions this morning that are provoked from the apparent presence of disciple-making in Antioch:
What is a disciple?
Why is disciple-making the mission?
Where are disciples made?
How do I make a disciple?
This is not a typical expositional sermon that we usually engage in where we simply move through a text explaining each phrase…, but rather we are asking questions about the particular concept we see represented in the church at Antioch.
So let's begin with question #1.

#1 What is a disciple?

When we ask the question what is a disciple?
We are essentially asking the question, what is a genuine Christian?
What are the traits of a person who has received eternal life?
Let me provide you here with four essential traits for being a disciple we see in the Antioch church.
If you say you are a Christian… these traits should describe you.
IF you want to make disciples… these traits are those that you should be instilling in others.
What is a disciple?
Disciples are Believers
This should come as no surprise. To be a disciple of Jesus, you have to believe that Jesus is who he says he is.
When the persecuted Christians from Jerusalem arrived in Antioch, they came preaching a message which had to be either accepted or rejected.
Either Jesus was the Lord of the universe who came to earth and died for the sins of mankind or he was not.
Either he rose from the dead or he didn’t
Either he was the fulfillment of all the Old Testament Scriptures or he wasn’t
The doorway into discipleship was first and foremost real belief in the person and work of Jesus and that if this was true, it had major ramifications for their lives.
Acts 11:21 ESV
And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
Faith is the first principle of discipleship from which everything else flows.
You have to believe that Jesus is who he says he is.
You have to believe that you are sinner separated from God…, but that God loved you so much that he made a way through the sacrifice of His Son to pay the price for your sins.
but initial faith is only genuine and real if it overflows into more than just faith.
Genuine faith in the person and work of Jesus, leads to the Daily following of Jesus.
Essential to the very word disciple is the concept of learning.
This is a slight repeat from last week but it's important.
What is a disciple?
Disciples are Believers
Disciples are Learners
You cannot be a disciple and not be a learner. Its essential to the word disciple.
We are followers of a teacher… and we have much to learn.
We are finite which means we do not know everything.
And we are sinful, which means we are prone to believe wrong things.
We therefore must always walk in a spirit of learning…
We must be ready to be corrected,
ready to be taught,
ready to grow in understanding.
I had an important conversation with my 4-year-old just yesterday…
He has gotten into a habit where when he hears something he does not want to hear, such as instruction or correction from Anne Marie or I… he will actually plug his ears.
If we say no to something he wants, or we correct him on something he has done… his first instinct is to physically close his ears…
Yesterday, he did that, and I asked him why he was closing his ears:
He said it was because he didn’t want to hear what we were saying..
I asked him if he remembered the Adam and Eve story. He said yes.
I asked him what God told Adam and Eve. He said not to eat the fruit.
And I asked what Adam and Eve did anyway. He said, they ate the fruit.
And then I said… they closed their ears to God… they didn’t want to hear what he had to say.
And now all of us have a sinful tendency to close our ears.
Christians break that habit, though,
We are a people who take our fingers out of our ears… and we want to hear anything and everything that God has to say.
This was the great need of the hour in Barnabas’ mind.
It's why he sent for Paul To come to Antioch.
They needed teaching.
But Barnabas didn’t just do this because he saw the need.… he did it because he knew the command.
This is what it means to be a disciple According to Jesus.
Matthew 28:19–20 (ESV)
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
But remember again, it's not only content that is taught…
Disciples were learners not just of truths, but they were learners of a lifestyle.
The word disciple was not a uniquely Christian word in Jesus’ day.
The word literally meant “pupil” or “learner”…, but not just learner of content, to be a disciple was to be a learner of a lifestyle.
To become a disciple of a Jewish Rabbi, was not just to learn from their teaching, but to learn their way of living.
It would not have been an uncommon sight to see a Rabbi walking through the marketplace with a group of his pupils walking closely behind.
This is the kind of relationship Jesus was inviting his disciples when He approached them with a command.… “follow me”
Or in other words… become my disciple.
This leads us to the third aspect of a disciple.
What is a disciple?
Disciples are Believers
Disciples are Learners
Disciples are Followers
This is why the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
They were not just sitting under good teaching… they were obeying that teaching.
They were attempting to reflect a Jesus-centered lifestyle in every way.
Jesus changed the way they related to people.
Jews were now actively fellowshipping with Gentiles in the church.
Jesus changed the way they spent money.
They gave their resources to serve other churches in other places.
Jesus changed the way they spent their time.
Gathering with the church in Antioch now took priority in their lives.
Disciples aren’t just cognitive learners…they are practical followers of Jesus.
As followers of Jesus, they seek to obey Jesus’ commands, especially his command to “make more disciples”
Why was Barnabas so glad to see the new church?
Why would Barnabas leave his home in Jerusalem to live in Antioch for a year?
Why would Paul leave his home in Tarsus to live in Antioch for a year?
Why did the Christians fleeing from persecution in Jerusalem immediately began to tell people about Jesus in Antioch?
They understood their purpose as disciples… was to obey one of Jesus’s clearest commands.... make more disciples.
What is a disciple?
Disciples are Believers
Disciples are Learners
Disciples are Followers
Disciples are Disciplers
if being a disciple of Jesus means following in the footsteps of Jesus then making disciples has to be the goal.
What do I mean make disciples?
I mean help other people to believe, learn, and follow Jesus.
Jesus made disciples. He helped people follow him.
Following Jesus means to then do what Jesus did.
Being a disciple means helping other people follow Jesus.
There is not a category in the Bible for a someone who says they are a disciple of Jesus… but who has no desire for making any more disciples of Jesus.
If you know Jesus, love Jesus, believe in Jesus and his message… then you will want other people to know Jesus, believe in Jesus, and follow Jesus.
You will want your spouse to believe in Jesus.
You will want your children to believe in Jesus.
You will want your neighbor, your co-worker, and your friends to believe in Jesus.
When Barnabas says…
“remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose…” this is part of the purpose.
Help make disciples who believe, learn, follow, and make more disciples.
A young person going through our church membership process once asked me this question.... they said...
“I have noticed that you all talk about disciple-making a lot, but other churches I have been to make other things more of a priority. Is this just your church’s thing? I know that there is a verse that commands us to make disciples, but is it ok that other churches focus more primarily on different ministries?”
Its a good question..

#2 Why Make Disciples?

Why is it that Barnabas saw the grace of God in Antioch, and then immediately began to establish a discipleship ministry in that place?
Why was this primary mission of Paul when he was sent out by Antioch?
Notice his pattern recorded in Acts 14.
Acts 14:21–22 (ESV)
When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
Let me give you four reasons, why this was the mission in Antioch and why this should be the mission of your life and our church.
Why Make Disciples?
God created us to make disciples
Essential to our humanity is this reason for being.
We were made to spread the image of the glory of God.
When God created humanity he gave them this purpose.
Genesis 1:27–28 ESV
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
This was mankind’s original marching orders…
Reflect the glory of God by filling the earth with more people who bear the image of God.
That mission was corrupted when humanity fell into sin.
But disciple-making is the re-institution of that original purpose.
When we help other people follow Jesus, we help them better reflect the image of God’s glory to the world and we fill the earth with God glorifying joy filled people.
There is a sense in which that intrinsic human desire to make a difference and serve a purpose is most fulfilled when we are making disciples.
Why Make Disciples?
God created us to make disciples
Jesus commanded us to make disciples
The last command of Jesus resembles the first command of God the Father.
God said fill the earth with image bearers in Genesis.
Jesus says, “disciple all the nations” and be a witness to me to the ends of the earht.
Matthew 28:19–20 ESV
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Acts 1:8 ESV
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Disciple-making mission was Jesus’ last words, and they were Jesus’ first words to his disciples.
Matthew 4:19 ESV
19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
In other words…, become my disciple…, and I will make you a disciple-maker.
Your primary goal in life will no longer be your fisherman career…, but rather you will strive for people to follow Jesus first and foremost.
Why Make Disciples?
God created us to make disciples
Jesus commanded us to make disciples
Love demands disciple-making
When asked what the most important commandment was, Jesus was clear. The greatest commandment is not go make disciples. the greatest commandment is love.
Matthew 22:37–39 ESV
37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Love is the greatest commandment… but disciple-making is the clearest application of love.
If you love someone… you want what is best for them.
What is best for them… is eternal life..
What is best for them is to know God’s word and believe God’s word.
What is best for them is forgiveness, and joy, and peace, only found in following Jesus.
If you love someone… your chief and highest desire for them is discipleship.
You want them to love God and be forgiven by God.
This is why it is absolutely baffling to me when a Christian young person says that they love someone and they want to marry someone…, but they care very little about that someone’s spiritual condition.
Either they do not love that someone… or they do not believe what they say they believe about sin, about God, and about eternity.
The clearest expression of love for any individual is to lead them to God the fountain and source of true love.
Why Make Disciples?
God created us to make disciples
Jesus commanded us to make disciples
Love demands disciple-making
Joy is found in disciple-making
Remember what the text said when Barnabas saw people growing in the Lord in Antioch?
It says in verse 23 that “he was glad”
He rejoiced.
The growth of others in the Lord brought him real joy.
and this is a consistent observation throughout the Scriptures.
In the book of 1 Thessalonians we find Paul rejoicing and giving thanks over the growth of the disciples in Thessalonica.
1 Thessalonians 1:1–7 ESV
1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. 2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
1 Thessalonians 2:19 ESV
19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?
If you are miserable.
If you feel as if your life has no meaning and no direction.
If you feel as if your job is just a place that you go to daily where the life is sucked out of you.... maybe your at your job for more than just a pay check.
Maybe there are people around you who need the Lord.
Maybe you are called to something more in this life then making money, hanging with your family, and trying to survive until you die.
Don’t get me wrong, there is great difficulty in pouring yourself out for the sake of other people’s spiritual growth…, but there is joy found here that you cannot find anywhere else....
In making disciples, you are forced to draw near to the Lord for help… and there is joy in nearness to the Lord.
In making disciples you are forced to know the word of the Lord so that you can help teach others.... and there is joy in knowing the word.
In making disciples you have a front row seat to miracles in the lives of others…, and there is joy in seeing the activity of God.
All this sounds great, but where does discipleship happen and how do I personally make a disciple?

#3 Where Does Discipleship Happen?

When the first people turned to the Lord in the book of Acts, their discipleship began to take place in a variety of contexts.
Acts chapter 2 gives us the snapshot.
Acts 2:46–47 ESV
46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Gathering in different ways became essential to what the church was… in fact the word “church” literally means gathering or assembly of people.
Christians became known as the group of people who regularly assemble or gather in different ways.
Thats why from its inception, Luke is already referring to the Antioch believers as a “church”
Acts 11:26 (ESV)
26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
The church is by definition a group of people who assemble together for the disciple-making ministry.
So where does disciple-making happen?
It happens in the gathering.
It happens in the assembling together with other Christians in both large gatherings and smaller gatherings.
here are four contexts in which disciple-making takes place.
Where does discipleship happen?
Congregational Gathering
Discipleship happens when the whole church gets together on the Lord’s Day to grow in the Lord.
We learn the word together through the teaching of pastors,
we sing the word together,
we pray the word together,
we see and experience the word of God together through the Lord’s Supper and Baptism.
Everything about this Holy moment is designed so that we all would be discipled so that we can be equipped to make more disciples.
The author of Hebrews argues that as persecution increases, and the difficulty comes you need to gather even more with the church, not less.
Hebrews 10:24–25 ESV
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
But if we reduce discipleship to the large congregational gathering, we miss so much of what disciple-making is.
Disciple-making happens in the large gathering… but it is essential that it is also happening in smaller gatherings.
Where does discipleship happen?
Congregational Gathering
Communal One-Another Teaching
You don’t just need a big room full of Christians where you arrive late, listen to a sermon, and leave early. You will not be discipled, nor will you disciple anyone if thats the extent of your involvement in discipleship contexts.
Acts tells us the first century church became, not just a once a week gathering… but they became a people who gathered in a variety of ways.
They gathered in the temple and they gathered in their own homes.
The church became more than a discipleship moment, but they became a disciple-making community where webs of relationships actually taught one another regularly
Colossians 3:16 ESV
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Ephesians 4:12–13 ESV
12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
There is a sense in which all of us are always seeking the spiritual growth in one another… and we can only seek that in one another if we are meeting in contexts where relationships can be built.
This sort of one another building up happens in contexts like community group.
We don’t do community groups just because we want to clutter your schedule. We want to provide a context where you can build relationships with other Christians and thus be discipled and disciple others.
This is the sort of one another building up that happens in our Sunday evening prayer service.
But its not limited to those two things… it can happen in the hospitality of your home on any day of the week with a group of people.
If you do not have a web of relationships in this church who will speak the truth to you and whom you speak the truth to… its not everyone else’s fault.. It is something you have to seek… its something you have to strive for....
You have to come to the congregational gathering…, but you also have to plug yourself into the spaces where communal one-another teaching happens.... and you have to be transparent…
But thats not all.
The degree of teaching and training in the church goes deeper then these larger and medium sized gatherings.
There was some real intentional doctrinal training and leadership development that took place.
Where does discipleship happen?
Congregational Gathering
Communal One-Another Teaching
Theological Training
I do not know the time span between Antioch in chapter 11 and the church in Antioch in chapter 13.
I know it was at least a year…, but what I do know is what had taken place in the church in that time.
By Acts 13… the church does not just have a group of brand new believers.... the church has a collection of leaders that were so mature, and so equipped to lead the church that they were able to actually send out their most gifted and most qualified leaders to go plant more churches.
Check the list of names referenced in chapter 13.
Acts 13:1 ESV
1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
The church had been so trained, and specifically leaders in the church had been so trained, that Paul and Barnabas could actually leave the church in their hands to go do ministry in new cities.
Paul emphasizes this more specific doctrinal training several times in his letters.
2 Timothy 2:2 ESV
2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.
Paul uses the language of training in 1 Timothy 4.
1 Timothy 4:6–8 ESV
6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
Some discipleship goes beyond the every week gathering, and the communal one another teaching.
Some discipleship requires the kind of specialized training that an athlete or a soldier undergoes.
We live in a world that is assaulting the Christian worldview at every corner.
You can’t settle for a shallow understanding and weak convictions when it comes to Christian doctrine.
You can’t settle for a shallow and untrained understanding of things like Biblical sexuality.
The world is waging war against your worldview… and you must be ready for that war.
Thus you need discipleship, and you need to disciple others in a way that trains them for the worldview war we are in.
This is why we offer what we call Training Tracks. These are more focused groups dedicated to training for ministry in this broken world.
But thats not the only way you can get this kind of training.
We have more resources available to us then any other generation in Christian history.
Good books abound.
Free Training courses abound.
Seminaries abound…,
if you want to learn about a particular topic or you need training in an area come talk to one of our pastors and we will hook you up with the right kind of resources.
Don’t be a youtube trained Christian. There are sound biblical resources available to you. We can help you find them.
Where does discipleship happen?
Congregational Gathering
Communal One-Another Teaching
Theological Training
Personal Disciple-Making
Even Jesus had contextual layers to his discipleship.
He preached to the crowds.
He trained the 72 and sent them out.
He spent most of his time with the 12.
And he spent even more focused time with just 3 guys, Peter, James, and John.
I think there is value to this observation.
We need a big web of relationships who are seeking to grow us spiritually and whom we are seeking to grow spiritually.
But we also need one or two or three people in our life…, whom we can meet with and dive into the deeper more personal areas of life.
We need people in our lives that we are committed to and who are committed to us… people who ask us whether we are fleeing sexual sin… people whom we ask whether they are actually spending time in prayer.
People whom we give a licence to lovingly confront us on things, and whom we can lovingly confront on things.
Are you discipling anyone in that kind of personal mutual accountability way?
Its not something that is going to happen accidentally… It is something that is engaged in intentionally.
And its something that will make a tremendous difference in your life and in the life of others.
So I want to close with one more question… and five short answers to that question.
#4 How do I make a Disciple?
Identify the need
Invest in the relationship
Invite them to grow in the Lord with you
Interpret the Word together
Instruct them to repeat the process
Identify the need:
Look at your life. Who has God placed in your life who needs a Christian friend who will help them follow Jesus?
Invest in the relationship
Disciple-making is all about relationships.
Jesus walked with the 12 disciples through daily life. He ate meals with them, traveled with them, and taught them along the way. Is discipleship of them was both formal and informal.
You have to invest in relationships if you are ever going to see progress in discipleship. Invite people into your life… and seek ways to be a part of theirs.
I am so encouraged by our church family… I can think of 4 situations just off the top of my head where I know church members who are opening their homes to people who have no place to live right now.
That is a beautiful context for discipleship.
Invite them to grow in the Lord with you
Once you have invested in a relationship… then just ask them if they’d be interested in growing closer to God with you. Make a plan. Meet once a month, or once a week with the aim of growing closer to God.
Interpret the Word together
Discipleship is always centered around hearing from the word of God, and then applying the word of God to life. Do it together.
We have on our website what we call discipleship pathways… these are basically guides that will help you do this. They will help direct the conversation and give you ideas for how to disciple.
Instruct them to repeat the process
This is how Christianity has spread for the last 2,000 years.
We disciple people to make more disciples.
We teach them how to teach others.
We help them grow in Jesus so they will help others grow in Jesus.
This is the work of the ministry to which we have been called.
We Love the Lord, make disciples, plant churches, by his grace and for his glory.
Lets pray that God will continue to bless the disciple-making ministry of our church as we look forward to the next seven years of ministry together.
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