“Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 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.” – Acts 11:19-20
Up until this point, the story of Acts has really been the story of a very small group of leaders from within the Jerusalem church. Here however, we see a remarkable change. Some unknown missionaries from Cyprus and Cyrene travelled to Antioch and initiated a mission amongst the Greeks (or non-Jews). To our modern 21st Century ears, this does not sound particularly remarkable. However, this mission took place in the early throws of the gospel, spreading out of the plant-pot of Jewish culture and starting to reach towards the ‘ends of the earth’. In addition, what makes this story even more remarkable, and in some ways even more striking than the passage Dan commented on last week , (Acts 10: What, them as well?! )is that these missionaries don’t even get named! The final layer of this amazing story is that many church historians believe that within a few decades, the church in Antioch numbered thousands and thousands (some have even numbered it nearer 100,000). So, a group of unnamed missionaries trigger a mass gospel movement in Antioch that ended with a church that for decades would be a centre of teaching and mission to the surrounding regions!
What does this have to say to you and me? Well, like me, most of us will only ever be in the ‘unknown’ category (from a worldly perspective). However, God doesn’t seem to care about status or number of Instagram followers. God is able to take a group of unknown missionaries and plant a glorious church that would have a massive region-shaking impact for decades to come. What about you and me? If we give ourselves, over this coming season to living as missionaries here in Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and the surrounding towns and villages, what might happen? In addition, if we give ourselves to supporting and initiating mission into towns further afield in Norfolk and Suffolk, what might happen? And even more crazily, if we give ourselves to planting churches in other countries, what might happen?
Could we see an Antioch-type church planted that will have a region-defining impact for the gospel for decades to come?
Unknown does not mean insignificant, so let us give ourselves to gospel witness here, there and wherever God takes us!
Dear Father, as an unknown missionary living in a community that is often forgotten about, I want to give myself afresh to gospel mission in the communities that surround me and if you so choose, wherever you might take me. I embrace being ‘unnamed’ and ‘unknown’ so that your name will be worshipped and adored by many hundreds of more people!