"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

The Characteristics of the Christians at Antioch

On Monday night thirty-five evangelical pastors and laymen convened around tables at the Holiday Inn Express in Arlington, Texas to discuss the possible formation of 'The Antioch Network of Churches.' The group had racial and gender diversity and the Spirit was evident in the singing, praying, teaching and fellowship. It was very refreshing for me to be in a place where Christian people were truly gracious toward one another in spite of differences, where evangelicals kept bringing the focus back to the person of Jesus Christ and the cooperative efforts needed to make the gospel of Christ known to the nations, and where God's people truly enjoyed one another's company in the midst of very real diversity.

There was plenty of discussion and even gracious disagreement on a proposed statement of cooperation, but each speaker was given respect and each viewpoint received a full and free hearing, so that a consensus statement was approved within a short period of time. The revised and official doctrinal confession and statement of cooperation, which will be published tomorrow, is an excellent example of how Christians can unite in ministry around the essentials, give freedom to one another in disagreement over the non-essentials, and display love toward each another in all things and at all times. Discussion will take place in today's meetings about possible future involvement in cooperative missions and ministry among the churches within the network. Nobody can say for certain if something formal will come out of this fellowship time or not, but if nothing else, the two day event has been a wonderful experience because there are no denominational politics at work in the meeting and there have been no demands for doctrinal conformity on minutiae matters.

There were several speakers tonight, but I wish to highlight the words of Dr. Sam Storms, the theologian who presented the biblical basis for the name 'Antioch.' Dr. Storms took two texts, Acts 11:19-30 and Acts 13:14, and listed twelve characterstics of the Christians in Antioch. These twelve characteristics would descriptively define any churches who would desire to be a part of a proposed 'Antioch Network.'

(1). They so personally cherished and prized the gospel they were willing to die for it (Acts 11:19).

(2). They were energetically and enthusiastically evangelistic (Acts 11:24).

(3). They were hungry for, and obedient to, the whole counsel of God (Acts 11:26).

(4). They were a compassionate and generous people (Acts 11:27-30).

(5). They were thoroughly and wholeheartedly Christ-centric (Acts 11;26).

(6). They were people committed to a convergence of word and Spirit (Acts 13:1).

(7). They were sincerely, and not merely theoretically, multi-ethnic (Acts 13:1).

(8). They were diverse not merely racially, but socially and economically as well (Acts 13:1).

(9). They were thoroughly God intoxicated and theocentric in their worship (Acts 13:1-4).

(10). They were thoroughly Christian hedonists (i.e. 'They desired abundant pleasure - but the pleasure they desired was 'in God' and all that He is in Christ).

(11). They were sensitive and discerning of the Spirit's voice (Acts 13:4).

(12). They had a heart for the nations (Acts 13:1-4).

It is worth noting that out of this group of Christians in Antioch the missionary journeys of Paul were launched. Early Christianity was struggling until these Antioch Christians, as described in Acts, came together to cooperate for the good of the nations. In a scant two and a half centuries later the world would be filled with professing believers, thirteen of the twenty seven books of the New Testament would be a direct result of the churches begun by the efforts of the Antioch Christians, and the name 'Christian' (partisans of Christ) would be spread to every nation of the world.

I do believe Dwight McKissic has landed upon a very good name for this proposed network of churches.

In His Grace,


Wade

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow what a great meeting! I get a sense tonight I got to experience a little of what heaven will be like! God must be well pleased!

Thanks for your obedience to God!

Ron Fisher

Bryan Riley said...

Storms' summation of Antioch is good. I do find it interesting that there is one point without a citation - the Piperesque point - but it is one with which I wholeheartedly agree. God must be our first love and purpose in all that we are and do. Did you simply neglect the citation there or was there not one?

David said...

. . . They were not perfect (cf. 11:19b), and they experienced major church conflict which must be resolved (cf. Acts 15), but appeared to remain focused upon their initial objective: telling the gospel message despite their circumstances (11:19).

Dan Paden said...

With respect, I think that y'all had better exercise extreme caution in the words you choose. I can't help but note that in highlighting the twelve characteristics by which you would like this association to be characterized, it makes it awfully hard for people not to "hear" that you don't think Southern Baptists in general are like that.

Don't be surprised if an awful lot of the reaction you get is, "Thanks a heap."

Wade Burleson said...

Dan,

Southern Baptists were not discussed. Further, if someone says 'Southern Baptists are not like Antioch Christians' I would vehemently disagree. Our church is full of Antioch Christians. Further, if our church were to join a NETWORK of churches, we would remain Southern Baptist in identity. The proposal is a NETWORK of churches - not a denomination or convention. It just so happens that other churches - besides Southern Baptist churches - may join this NETWORK as well.

Ken Coffee said...

How exciting!

Chris Johnson said...

Wade,

I sincerely hope that those associated with Antioch lead and finish strong with the Gospel of God.

To God be the Glory!

Blessings,
Chris

WTJeff said...

Wade,

Although church networks is not a new concept in the US, those making up ANC are true trailblazers here in the bible belt. I look forward to the example you set and will pray you don't get too singed by those who don't understand as you blaze this new trail.

Grace,

Jeff Parsons

Dan Paden said...

Wade,I understand your point; I am merely warning you how this will be perceived by some people, not suggesting that their perceptions are necessarily accurate. Just suggesting that you be prepared to deal with it, that's all.

Kevin Bussey said...

"It was very refreshing for me to be in a place where Christian people were truly gracious toward one another in spite of differences"

Amen! Great to hear that can happen.

Wade Burleson said...

Dan,

Agreed.

davidinflorida said...

This is good...

A Christian biblical revolutionary awakening in progress...

I may have to move back to Texas for this..

ml said...

"The revised and official doctrinal confession and statement of cooperation, which will be published tomorrow, is an excellent example of how Christians can unite in ministry around the essentials, give freedom to one another in disagreement over the non-essentials, and display love toward each another in all things and at all times."

Wade, why does this have to be a formal network? Doesn't the fact that you have a statement of cooperation nullify the whole cooperative network premise to begin with? And what makes this network a more viable group than say the Nine Marks Network? In other words, while I applaud your effort here, you are not radically departing from other network groups. And I would even say that if the intent of the network is to rally around the gospel, based on Galatians, you might want to articulate what your group believes the gospel to be—does it include, faith alone or faith plus works, eternal security, election, limited or unlimited atonement, etc. I suspect that it is somewhat anachronistic and idealistic to use Antioch in comparison to today. Somehow I don't think that the streams of thought development were as complex when the original Antioch Christians aligned themselves together. Besides they met in the synagogue, still a sect of Judaism, and they were expelled from the city. The bottom line is that even your network has drawn a line and essentially ostracized other churches. I think it is a rather semantic debate to laud one network over another. The fabulous thing I think is that you are articulating what you believe are the primary doctrines and by default what are tertiary and secondary. The first comments I ever made here echoed numerous others whose desire has been to hear you articulate this. I suspect you have now arrived at this point? I am open to correction. Nonetheless I am waiting to see what the published cooperation document says.

Valerie Calderon said...

Just a pragmatic question: Has anyone considered the possibility of confusion with the Antioch Network of church planting churches already in existence?

Wade Burleson said...

ml,

Good question. We discussed your question at length among ourselves. Our desire is to simply define the network - but let churches maintain their absolute autonomy and authority. The Network is not a top down denomination or convention - it is truly a Network.