8. Sent!

During the last few chaptersmap the focus shifted from Jerusalem to Damascus and then to Antioch – not to be confused with as city with the same name in Asia minor.

Read Acts 13:1-3

Read the names of the leaders of this fellowship. Look carefully at each name. Note the information available about them, the difference in temperament and background. You may even google their names if you want more information. Some of them we met before.

  1. Whos is sent out to carry out Jesus’ command?
  2. What process lead to them being sent?
  3. What prior knowledge and experience did they have?
  4. If we had to send two people on such a mission:
    • Who will it be?
    • Where should they go?
    • What should they do?
    • To whom is they accountable?

In the book of Acts these few verses form a transition to a new phase, a checkpoint. Take this very seriously. If you want to follow Jesus any further you will have to follow him like this as well.

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7. Just a remark

In reading the book of Acts again I was pleasantly surprised by the very strong emphasis on the mutual responsibility for each other and the radical inclusive nature of the faith community.

Paul uses pictures like the body of Christ and the faith community as a temple where God lives to describe this from a theological viewpoint. I thought that the work of the Holy Spirit in the individual believers would be much more prominent than in the group, but I was wrong. Of course the Spirit works in individual believers  but the focus is almost all the time on the work of the Spirit in and through the faith community as a whole.

THose of us who grew up in an individualistic culture find this difficult to understand. We will have to learn how to be body of Christ together so that the spirit of Christ can minister through us as a body..

We do not really have a choice. Paul writes that in way we are baptised into the body of Christ, we recieve the gifts of the Spirit corporatively and function as one body.

This is the theory.

In real life it was much more difficult even for people from a culture that had a much stronger corporative identity. As we read through Acts we can see how the leaders struggled applying this concept and how the Lord had to force them time and time again to rethink their practises and worldview.m

What we saw up to now is how Jesus as resurrected Lord himself continues his ministry through his bode, the faith community. He activates the body to do as He wants. Through this faith community he proclaims the message of the Kingdom breaking through through the powerful working of the Holy Spirit. Many come to faith in Him, the sick are healed, the lame walk.. God;s kingdom is being established within groups of disciples from all the nations.

In looking back at what we have read up to now where are some questions that comes to mind.

  • What mistakes did they make and what did they learn from the experience?
  • What mistakes do we make and what can we learn from it?
  • We are following Jesus as the invisible risen Lord. How does He lead and ho do we follow?
  • How does what he said and did when physically present on earth help us to know whether it is Him we are following?
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6. From disciple group to movement: Radical inclusive!

In the first twelve chapters of Acts time and time again we read how the Holy Spirit combines a diverse groups of disciples to form a unity where background, gender, ethnicity or cultural issues does not play a role in separating people from each other any more.The one spirit lives in all as they form one body. Paul often uses this building block in his letters when laying the foundation for the expanding movement of disciples of Jesus all over the world.For the Jewish community where the disciple group of Jesus began this idea of inclusiveness was more than strange, it was a cultural and religious taboo, unthinkable, an abomination.

When Paul wrote that the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets this is one of the foundation stones without which the disciple group never would have become a movement. Do not hesitate to spend much time on this topic and on thinking though ways in which you can apply the principles win your group.

In Acts 8:26-40  the Spirit intervenes physically to ensure that Philip would be included as a disciple of Jesus. Philip was a castrated Ethiopian working as a senior government official and would have been considered permanently ritually unclean. He could never enter the temple and approach god in any way according to the Old Testament. Even if he was a Jew he would be rejected as unclean. Can you remember Jesus reaching out to the unclean?

In Acts 9:1-31 the story of Saul/Paul’s conversion is told. The evil person are being included into the disciple group when the Spirit works actively. Can you remember what Jesus said about the evil person? Read the result in verse 31.

In Acts 10 : 1-48 we read how a military officer from the hated enemy became part of the body of Christ. Again a supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit was necessary before it was possible to include the pagan enemy. Luke even uses half of the next chapter to report how Peter had to explain to the other disciples back home why he baptised the pagan.

And now the questions:

  • Is the radical inclusion despite race, language, background, gender or class still one of the primary building blocks if our desire is that Jesus would by the Spirit be actively working through his body that we are part of?
  • Which boundaries would we have to cross in following in the footsteps of Jesus?
  • What resistance can we expect??
  • What role can we expect the Holy Spirit to play? Think practical. We know that the Spirit will help us, but how?
  • How are we as groups going to live an inclusive lifestyle?
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5. From disciple group to movement: Leaders come forward.

The growing number of disciples soon needed more leaders. Someone had been chosen in Judas’ place but soon the number grew in their thousands and new leaders came forward.  One of them was a Levite from Cyprus with the name of Josef – better know under his nickname as Barnabas. Barnabas would play a major role in the development of the early church.

Read Acts 4:37, Acts 9:26-28, Acts 11:25-30 and Acts 15:25-26. If you are curious you can look up Barnabas in a concordance to see where else in the New testament his name is mentioned.

  • How does Barnabas take personal responsibility for the needs of the disciple group?
  • How does Barnabas exercise leadership like jesus did? Hoe does that differ from leadership in politics of business?
  • Barnabas did not know Jesus when He physically walked the earth. How then does he help others to follow Jesus?

Are you possibly a Barnabas?

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4. From disciple group to movement: Care for each other

We saw in the previous series that giving with an open hand and caring for other in a practical way is part of the lifestyle of a disciple of Jesus. The group of disciples, a few thousand strong now, are being filled by the active personal presence of God himself. The immediate result is to apply Jesus’example even when it completely goes against the grain for self-preservation.

  • Can you remember what Jesus said about money and personal property? Remind each other.
  • How did the disciples follow Jesus practically.?
  • How can we do it today in our culture and context?

Spend some time on this passage. Do not think in term of ideology, but think like Jesus did about the other believers with whom you are joined into one body. Read what happens when things go wrong in the next passage as well.

  • How are you going to help each other to apply the same principle of radical discipleship? Make list of possibilities. We will come back to this theme often as it will be raised in different contexts and cultures as we continue to read the book of acts.
  • Do you think the experience of being filled by the Spirit had anything to do in the disciples willingness to make this radical decision?
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3. From disciple group to movement: Radical fellowship

How do you follow Jesus if you cannot see him physically? You follow Him by seeing how he works through the Holy Spirit in the lives and through the lives of the group of disciples with whom you are journeying through life. How he shapes and forms you as a group to think and do as He did. How he shapes the disciple group into becoming his body.

Read Acts 2:41-47. 1 Cor 12:12-13

  • What was so radical in the way the disciple group functioned in terms of time, place and custom?
  • What impact did it have on the way they followed Jesus?
  • What impact did it have on the people outside the circle?

You may read a little bit wider than just the verses suggested.  Do spend a lot of time on the concept of a radical faith community. In modern times many of us became much more individualistic than the culture in which Jesus and the first disciples lived. 

We will have to learn from experience how to be open to what the Spirit is doing through the others in the group.

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2.From disciple group to movement: borders are drawn different now!

13978743227_913f2617ef_bWhen the living God come to live in His new home the dynamics of relationships change in many ways. With God giving himself in our midst when we are together the way we think about each other and ourselves will change. This is one key to the dynamics of movement. The Jews in Jesus’time drew the circle of who is in and who is outside very close. Now the doors are thrown open to include people who are different,with different cultures, different languages, different worldviews even. We will see exactly the same happening many times during the nest dozen or so chapters. The metamorphosis of a groups of disciples becoming a movement cannot happen without this.

Read Acts 2:5-13 en Galatians 3:26-28

  • What is the one factor that makes it possible to throw open the doors to everybody?
  • Kan your remember how Jesus did the same during his ministry?
  • Jesus goes out in front of us and we follow. How does He guide us through his Spirit to take the next step.
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