The Legacy of Ordinary Life on Mission in the Early Church

Tim Brister —  May 16, 2016 — Leave a comment

“Now those who were scattered went about preaching the Word.” – Acts 8:4
“Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch…” – Acts 11:19

Those who read the book of Acts will notice the influence of two major churches: the church in Jerusalem and the church in Antioch. Jerusalem was the city where the New Testament church started through the preaching of Peter at Pentecost, and Antioch became the missionary sending center for Paul and Barnabas throughout the Gentile world. But there is an amazing connection between these two churches that can get easily overlooked while reading about Stephen’s martyrdom, Paul’s conversion, and Peter’s dreams. It’s the ordinary life on mission from the no-named army of disciples who preached Jesus everywhere they went.

In Acts 8, the church scattered from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria due to persecution from the hand of Saul and his accomplices. They were identified as “those who were scattered.” The persecution that sent them did not stop them or silence them. Providence pushed them toward proclaiming Jesus, and they “went about” their lives doing just that. How did the gospel get from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria? It happened as Spirit-empowered disciples bore witness to Jesus and His resurrection and preached the Word as they stepped out on mission.

Fast forward a couple of chapters and you see that same gospel seed spreading from Judea and Samaria to the Gentile world, completing the promise of Acts 1:8. But how did it get there? More specifically, who took it to the Gentile world? Did God use Phillip, Peter and Paul? Absolutely. But notice the language of Acts 11:19.

“Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arise over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch…”.

The gospel went from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria because of no-named disciples on mission to make much of Jesus. And the gospel went from Judea and Samaria to the Gentile world because of no-named disciples on mission to make much of Jesus. Is it any wonder, then, that the church in Antioch would be the sending center for the early church in the book of Acts? It was comprised of disciples whose spiritual lineage descended from disciples who made disciples who preached Jesus in the power of the Spirit. They had the missional DNA from the beginning because the gospel seed was so generously and faithfully scattered by ordinary disciples “going about” their ordinary lives on mission to preach the Word and tell others about Jesus.

We will never know the stories and the sacrifices of “those who were scattered” in the early church, but they have a legacy that continues generation after generation among people from all lands and languages of people who have no name or recognition other than the everlasting fruit they leave in the wake of their life on mission.

May that be true about our generation and our cities today. The way God will reach our world may be through a Peter or Paul. But it also may be through “those who were scattered” that went about their lives making much of Jesus and sowing that gospel seed day in and day out.

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