We’re finishing up our series based on Paul’s 1st missionary journey in Acts 13-14, in which if you remember the big idea is that here is where we find the work of the ministry defined. Saul and Barnabas were called and sent out by the Holy Spirit “to do the work” to which the Holy Spirit had called them, and then at the end of these two chapters, they sailed back to Antioch “where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled.” So They went out with a clear understanding of the work that they were to do, and they knew when in fact they had completed the work.
Evangelize: Point People to the Way
21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch,
Establish: Encourage People Along the Way
22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
Equip: Preserve the Way for Those to Come
23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
The final part of the work is not immediately obvious, though it is seen in verse 24: “Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia.” The idea is that part of the work of the ministry that they were to do was to extend the work outward, to keep on moving, so that the name of the Lord might be taken to all corners of the earth.
The Work of Extending Requires Leaving
We’ve seen this all through the book of Acts. Barnabas himself was a core leader and key contributor of the Jerusalem church, and he was sent to Antioch to help the work there. Barnabas and Saul worked tirelessly for over a year at the Antioch church, but then the Hiy Spirit called them into mission work and the church sent them off. The Work of Extending Requires Leaving. The mission of God will sometimes require some of us to leave, and some of us to stay behind and allow others to leave. Jesus himself understood this. In John 16:28 he said, John 16:28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” The Gospel of John particularly is filled with statements by Jesus that he was sent into the world by the Father with a purpose, namely to reveal God’s salvation to us. The ultimate expression of this was in John 20:21: Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” and with those works he commissioned the church in its mission. So yes, this work of extending requires sending, and this work of extending requires leaving.
- Leaving is required because the commission is bigger than one place. We are called to take the Gospel to all the ends of the earth, and we cannot do this, even in this city, unless some go.
- Leaving is required because the work is bigger than one person. This was part of Paul’s genius in his mission work. He did not let the work in any city become dependent upon himself, but he raised up men and then left them, so that the churches would be in the care of a group of local leaders. Pastor’s stay on too long, congregations get too dependent upon one person. Colonial missions
Leaving is Sorrowful Work It’s hard to be a church that sends people out. It’s hard to be sent out. We know this as a congregation, because we’ve had to say goodbye to some dearly-loved brothers and sisters, who’ve left our congregation either because they have moved, or because they’ve felt called to join another ministry, or for whatever reason. It’s really hard. Paul himself, even though he was called to this work, of which leaving was part of the work, it was still hard. One of the most moving pictures in the Bible is found in Acts 20:36, Paul’s farewell to the elders at Ephesus.
Acts 20:36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.
There is a Good Way to Leave and a Bad Way to Leave
Acts 13:13 Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem …
The phrase is so short: and John left them. He ghosted them. There were immediate consequences - in the short term, Paul and Barnabas were short-handed. Mark was a vital part of the team. I can imagine that this hurt morale. Mark had come with them to Antioch from Jerusalem, and then left with them when they were called out, so they had many experiences together, and suddenly he’s gone. Long-term though, Mark’s leaving exposed a rift between Barnabas and Paul. When a person up and leaves in a bad way, it’s not only about the one who leaves, but it also affects those left behind.
Acts 15:36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
39: “there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other.” They are still dealing with the aftermath of Mark’s desertion in chapter 15. Apparently the missionaries reunited with Mark in Jerusalem, and Barnabas, being the “son of Encouragment” he was, wanted to give Mark another chance. Paul disagreed, and ultimately disagreement over Mark’s desertion led to division and separation.
Contrast Mark’s desertion from the mission with another young man in the next few verses, who left his church.
Acts 16:1 Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
Look for a minute at this young man Timothy. He is noted as a disciple of Christ, a follower/learner of Jesus. he’s not just living off his parent’s faith, but is himself a disciple. From other scriptures, we can piece together a sketch of his life:
2 Tim 1:5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well … 3:14 continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
1 Tim 6:11 Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
1 Tim 4:14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.
His mom was a believer, a Jewess named Eunice. She had learned the faith from her mom, Lois, and then she had raised Timothy in the faith even from childhood training him in the scriptures. So Timothy grew up a church kid, and at some point he himself felt the call of God on his life and made the good confession in the presences of many witnesses, perhaps this is referring to his baptism or confirmation in the faith, a time that he publicly testified of his faith in Christ and desire to follow him. As he grew in the faith and matured into manhood, what an asset he was to the churches in his hometown and it neighbouring town Iconium. Yet when the apostle Paul came through town at the beginning of his second missionary journey, the churches commended Timothy to Paul and Paul gladly welcomed him on to the team. The counsel of elders, likely of his home church laid hands on Timothy and prayed and prophesied over him and gladly sent him out. Isn’t that the way to leave? To be sent out into the Lord’s service, extending the mission of God.
That’s what our heart is to be as a church. It is our desire that every person who passes through OCBC will have been helped to walk the Way of Christ. We Long to Be a Church That Extends God’s Work, and therefore we recognize that we will be sending people out.
Particularly, since we a church with many younger people, we will be sending out a lot of movers. Some of you may only be in Ottawa for a short period of time, you may return home after graduation, or may find it difficult to remain in Ottawa. Make the most of your time here at OCBC. Participate in ministry, join a connect group, get to know not only your peers, but the older generation and even the Chinese side. And if you get to the point in your life in which you need to leave - please don’t just leave. Talk to me, talk to others, communicate, help us pray for you and prepare you. Be open. If your in a ministry, give enough time for us to try to raise up someone to replace you. Let others in so that we can praise God for letting you go. Some of you may be contemplating OCBC for trying out another church (I know that’s tough). Here’s what I genuinely believe and would plead with you. I won’t plead with you to stay, but I will plead with you that you don’t just depart. Talk to us. If you’re considering leaving because you’re frustrated with something, talk to us about it. Let others in so that we can praise God for letting you go.
And I would say this to others who are visiting here from another church and wanting to check OCBC out, go back and communicate with your current church. Don’t leave on bad terms. Help them praise God for sending you out.
We Long to Be a Church That Extends God’s Work through sending out missionaries. God’s work is bigger than Ottawa, and we believe that God will call some of you into his work. We pray that we will send out men and women established in the faith and equipped for ministry.
We also hope that many will remain at OCBC to mentor future generations.