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The world’s most influential church

Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of peopleActs 11:26, NIV

What was the most influential church in the world in the middle years of the first century, the time when Christianity spread across the Roman empire?

Promising candidates would be either Jerusalem, where it all began, or Rome, the seat of empire (indeed, Paul says the Roman Christians’ faith is being reported all over the world — Romans 1:8).

But in Acts (the story of the growth of early Christianity) Luke (the author) also tells us a lot about the church in Antioch, in what is now south-eastern Turkey.

Its influence — at least via the Apostle Paul — was astonishing. It is here, Luke tells us, where the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). But above all, it was the base for Paul’s gospel-spreading tours: it was his “sending church”. The map of those expeditions which is printed in the back of most Bibles has these journeys starting and ending there. It was in Antioch where Paul was first commissioned for this work (Acts 13:1-3), and to which he returned between trips. It makes sense to deduce that the church which had first sent Paul continued to be supportive of him.

What was it that established this church? It began with a tremendous ministry of teaching by Paul and Barnabas, both before Paul’s travels began (Acts 11:22-26) and during them (Acts 15:35).

At St Andrew the Great we don’t claim to have influence like the Antioch church! But we do long to be a church that makes Christ known, and which is a sending church. As our slogan puts it: “The gospel to Cambridge; gospel workers to the world.” If so, we can learn an Antioch lesson: this great church was established by an emphasis on teaching, so that the Christians there were well equipped and established to live for Christ in a pagan world.
Our new Equip course, starting this Wednesday evening, 8-9pm, is launched in that same spirit. If you would like to come along, sign up here.

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