Unity In Diversity: Antioch Ethos
*Ethos (/ˈiːθɒs/ or /ˈiːθoʊs/) is a Greek word meaning "character" that is used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation, or ideology.
The book of Acts describes how the history of the early church unfolded. In chapters 11 and 13 we read about this church that emerged in the city of Antioch of Syria. Amidst the intense persecution the followers of Jesus received in Jerusalem, Antioch transformed into the new "hub" for the believers.
A Little Info On Antioch
One thing that is notable about the church in Antioch is that it was a reflection of the diverse cosmopolitan culture surrounding it. Within the church there existed this unity in diversity. Unity is a buzz word today and everyone is striving to have it often with very little success. What we read taking place in Acts 13:1-3 is this highly diverse group of people were coming together to worship. Just how diverse you might ask?:
Wow! That seems like a recipe for disaster. Never would we think to assemble such a "Motley Crue" group of people together. We would often choose people very similar to us to prevent any riffs from happening. This is a testimony of the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ is what unified this group to join together.
Not only was there ethnic diversity but we read about different spiritual gifts being represented. Spiritual Gifts are supernatural empowerments from God through the Holy Spirit to the follower of Jesus. These gifts influence the way we see the world and operate in life and ministry. Gathered together were prophets and teachers (Acts 13:1a). We read in other scripture that Paul was also given the gift of an apostle (Rom. 1:1).
Here's the deal, I am sure that this group could have spent there time debating all sorts of issues. They could have focused on the minutia and lost sight of the mission at hand. It is tragic when churches do not embrace this unity in diversity. They attempted to make "cookie cutter" Christians eliminating the possibility of having a greater impact for the gospel of Jesus. When individuals and churches treat discipleship as a way of teaching their religious system rather than teaching and instructing in the "Way" of Jesus it creates a very contentious and insular culture. Many times there are other churches faithfully proclaiming the gospel and these narrow minded people make enemies out of friends because they don't "do" church the same way and don't "toe the party line." Did Jesus die for our sins, resurrect from the grave, and ascend back to Heaven so we as the body of Christ can be divided on secondary issues? God forbid! Lean into and embrace this unity in diversity for the sake of the gospel.
A firm commitment to discipleship was another virtue that was prevalent at the church in Antioch. In fact, before the church sent Paul and Barnabas out to start more churches they stayed there for a whole year teaching them God's word (Acts 11:26). True discipleship is often missing in many places. True discipleship is tough and very messy. Discipleship is more than putting a program, class, or simply preaching a sermon once a week. Jesus set forth a model of discipleship that we often see Paul mimic as well.
This explains how we determined our pattern of discipleship at ONElife Church. We have a simple strategy in which we make disciples who A.C.T.
One final point of great importance in regards to the ethos of the Antioch church is the Kingdom-mindedness that was prevalent. Paul and Barnabas stayed for a year ministering and surely would have been deeply loved by the people. I am sure the church wanted them to stay and continue to minister to them. However, they knew that God's plan for Kingdom expansion was to use Paul and Barnabas to plant more churches. The leaders were sensitive to the Holy Spirit and focused on building the Church rather than just simply their church when they sent Paul and Barnabas out (Acts 13:3). Many people and churches miss this point. When people feel called to go elsewhere for Kingdom expansion they are often questioned as if they are doing something wrong. They may be made to feel like they are leaving the faith when in fact they are just leaving a local church.
This mindset adopted by the Antioch Church is the proper one to have. It is our calling to have a vision for being a sending church and to set aside times to worship to seek out the Lord's calling. John Piper says that there are three types of people that exist in every church, "Those that send, those that are sent, those that are disobedient." The question is which category to you fall in? Let's model our lives and ministry after the Antioch Church and be sent ones and senders for the glory of God.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.
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