What a Christian Church Looks Like
By Alan Dean, retired Seventh-day Adventist pastor
In Acts 11:26 we read that the early believers in Christ were first called Christians in Antioch of Syria. Acts 11:29 states that persecution of Jewish believers began right after the stoning of Stephen and that Antioch was one of the cities to which they began to flee. When they arrived they shared the gospel with Jews living there.
Verse 20 adds that some believers from Cyprus and Cyrene also came to Antioch and began preaching the Lord Jesus to the Greeks living there. This dual effort of evangelism (to the Greeks and Jews) brought great numbers into the church. Verse 21 says “the hand of the Lord was with them.”
This became the first city in the Roman Empire to have large numbers of Greek and Jewish believers worshiping together. This fact becomes one of the reasons they stood out as being different. Just as Jesus had no prejudice towards anyone, this church too was unbiased in their evangelism. Everyone was to be included.
There are other reasons that the Antioch church became known as Christians, followers of Christ. When Barnabas (vs. 23) arrived from Jerusalem to evaluate the situation in Antioch, he quickly saw the “grace of God” emanating from the believers. Barnabas was glad to see the love being expressed by the church for Jesus and one another. Through Barnabas’ preaching more were added to the church.
A 3rd positive trait in the Antioch church was that they were generous in helping the poor (vs. 27-30). In this case they sent relief to the believers in Jerusalem because of a famine that took place. And lastly, the church in Antioch was missionary-minded. Acts 13:2, 3 says the church fasted, prayed, and laid hands on Paul and Barnabas and sent them away. Sending missionaries is still needed.
So, here are four traits of a healthy Christian church: no prejudice toward others, the grace of God at work within the church, a generous spirit toward the poor, and having a zeal for missionary work.
Let’s strive to make these the traits a part of our churches as well.