There were five leaders in the church at Antioch. The five guys sharing leadership were: Barnabas, who had a reputation as an encourager; Simeon called Niger (good chance he was of black African descent); Lucius of Cyrene which is currently a part of Libya; Manaen, who grew up with King Herod (obvioursly upper class); and Saul who had violently opposed and persecuted the church before his miraculous conversion.
This diverse group of leaders didn’t function from positional authority, ego, self-promotion, or tradition. Instead they sought to corporately hear and obey God’s direction by worshipping and fasting.
One day they heard these words from God: “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after more prayer and fasting, the three remaining guys laid their hands on the two guys and sent them off.
Saul’s name was soon changed to Paul and both he and Barnabas became known as Apostles, which means, sent ones. This began a great expansion of Christianity as Barnabas and Saul/Paul began to travel and plant new communities of believers through out Asia Minor.
In a previous post I told the story of how the first Apostles made a decision to begin to set up an administrative structure in the church of Jerusalem, but immediately after that, the church was demolished by persecution (led by Saul and others). All the church was scattered except the Apostles (the sent ones) who stayed put in Jerusalem.
However, Antioch was different. (Acts 13) We are not told that the leaders there tried to set up a system of administration. Instead they sought God in prayer and fasting. They listened and sought to hear His will. Once the 5 leaders at Antioch were convinced that they had heard from God, they acted on what they heard and sent Barnabas and Saul/Paul on their way.
Barnabas and Saul were not appointed to be exalted, positional leaders in a local church. Rather they were sent to go and plant new churches. However, even in establishing new churches, Barnabas and Saul were not to install themselves as lifetime leaders and controllers of those Christian communities. Instead Barney and Paul taught new churches to rely on Jesus and to allow Him to be what Apostle Peter called their “Chief Shepherd” which in modern English means “Senior Pastor.”
The leaders at Jerusalem appeared to want to establish an institutional system. However, the leaders at Antioch appeared to want to allow the living Jesus to run the show. What do you think about these two situations?