So the Gentile believers in Antioch, previously ignored by the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, immediately decide to help. They take an offering and send it to the Jerusalem church by Barnabas and Saul. They become compassionate about needs beyond themselves. They gain a passion for a larger world.
And this larger world would beckon them again and again.
One day as they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, “The Holy Spirit, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them'” (Acts 13:2). These are their founding pastors, two of their five ministerial leaders. They could have refused. They could have kept their leaders and spiritual mentors for themselves.
But again they saw a larger world: “after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off” (v. 3). And they would continue this sacrificial support. Each of Paul’s three missionary journeys began with Antioch. Continually he received financial, material, and spiritual sustenance and support from this, his home church.
And God made a group of Gentile believers in the most immoral city in their part of the world to be a church of global significance. Their ministry touched the ancient world as they prayed, gave, and went for Jesus. Their ministry has affected the world for twenty centuries since. You and I are Gentile Christians today, here this morning, in large part because of the Antioch believers. They stepped from temporal success to global and eternal significance.
So can we.
… we can do.
By the end of the Korean War, a young man named Yonggi Cho was dying of tuberculosis. A friend of his family visited him repeatedly, prayed with him, and gave him the Scriptures. Others helped him come to Christ; later he was healed of his disease.
In 1956 he entered Seoul’s two-year Full Gospel Bible Institute. He began a church in a tent on May 15, 1958; only five people heard his first sermon. His pulpit was a stack of wooden apple crates covered by a thin cloth. One of the five in the congregation, an elderly woman, went to sleep and started snoring. Yonggi almost quit.
He and his friends began to pray, every morning at 4:30. The rest of the day they visited in the homes of their poor community, ministering and praying with anyone who would allow them to. People began coming to their tent to pray as well. Ministry teams began to grow. God began to heal the sick and to convert the lost. By 1967, nine years after they began in a tent, their church had a congregation of 7,750.
Their secret was simple: they prayed for God to reach their nation and their world. And they still do. Every staff member begins the workday with an hour of prayer in his or her office. They sponsor all-night prayer meetings every day except Sunday, and have as many as 25,000 at some of them. When their church started, perhaps 4% of South Korea was born-again; now the number exceeds 30%. And their church membership is nearly one million. God has given this one church global significance.
You may know the story of Bob Buford.
As an extremely successful cable television executive in Tyler, he experienced “success panic” at the age of 44. Through a series of circumstances he came to determine that business success was not enough for his soul, for his life to be significant.
In time he founded Leadership Network, a service which links ministry leaders and needs in church and community. Leadership Network has become the leader in the world in such a strategy. And Buford’s book, Half Time: Changing Your Game Plan from Success to Significance has helped transform the lives of thousands of men and women, as they have moved from economic success to spiritual significance.
What are the steps?
Believe that your life must change the world. Get a passion for the world. Believe Jesus when he said you are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14). Believe him when he said that you would “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and be his witness “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
You have not obeyed these commands unless and until your life has changed the world. Believe that you can, and you must.
Next, define the needs which surround you. Just as God used the prophet Agabus to tell the Antiochian Christians about the needs of their world, so he will show us the needs he intends us to meet.
Ask him to make you sensitive to the people around you and their problems. Like the Antioch Christians, he has given you the resources you need to meet them. Decide that you will do all you can do to help. You can give food, time, energy, and abilities to help hurting people in your community and around the world.
And last, support those who will do what you cannot. God did not call everyone from Antioch to go to the larger world, but he called some. The others prayed for them, gave money to help them, held the ropes as they went out. We give money to support missionaries who go where we cannot. And through them, we touch the world.
You have experienced success. Is your life significant? It must be—you must touch the world spiritually, or you have not used your life as God intends. Your life can have global significance. The choice is yours.
In Cespedes, our Cuba ministry team met with Carlos, the pastor of a church whose building is about the size of a Sunday school department. His office is the size of one of our closets. But on the wall of his office is a map of the world. He believes that God has called him and his church to touch that world. And on that map is a sticker which marks Dallas, Texas. I am grateful.