“The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:19-26, CSB) is one of the well recognized phrases in Acts. When the church (leaders) in Jerusalem heard that the Gentiles in Antioch had received the gospel of the Lord Jesus and believed they sent Barnabas to confirm the account. Barnabas is ‘commissioned,’ designated with influence as a representative of the leaders in Jerusalem. What does Barnabas find? The grace of God in the lives of the people of Antioch. The flow of Acts 11:19-26 reads, concerning Barnabas, like the description of a child at Christmas. It is almost as if Barnabas cannot help himself, rushing off to Tarsus, about 100 miles by land, to get Saul and let him in on the pleasure of fellowship. This phrase about the disciples first being called Christians in Antioch frames the end of this account, describing the character of the church in Antioch as Barnabas uses his position of power to bring the pleasure of fellowship to the church with Saul.
Each year for the last several I have been reading Acts in October. New Testament Christianity, as defined here, functions as individual believers and churches cooperate after the model established by Barnabas, the church in Antioch, and Saul. I have experienced a taste of this at the annual meeting of the KNCSB (Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists).
Though I have attended this particular annual meeting, and several like it, this is the first year I fulfilled any time of leadership role. I chair a small committee which sets the date and location for future meetings, and chooses the man who will deliver the annual Convention Sermon. When I was asked to be on this committee I was not jubilant to put another iron in the fire. However, knowing that Christianity functions through cooperation, I acquiesced. I am glad I did. I have had the chance to nominate and see to appointment two men who will offer a clinic in expository preaching and sound doctrine. Unfortunately these two hallmarks of ministry are at times absent in denominational life, so to have these slots secured for the next couple of years will have an influence upon the convention and younger pastors especially. And that is the ‘felt benefit’ of cooperation in New Testament Christianity.
This is actually the second such instance for me in the last month. I have recently completed a two year term on the executive board of the Kansas City Kansas Baptist Association (KCKBA). Much of our work is prayer, support, and watching the budget. At my final meeting on the board we looked at the 2013 proposed budget and noticed that the KCKBA staff were not set to get any raises, though church offering is up from the previous year. Staff had taken some cuts and/or been flatlined in the last several years. During a lull in the board’s discussion I felt led to propose a motion that staff get raises. It just did not set right with me that if church giving is up their salaries should not proportionally and moderately reflect income. I had an opportunity to influence the situation, to exert the power conferred upon me as a board member. The board quickly agreed and next year, as a result of my influence, several salaries will be a few dollars more each day. The pleasure, the ‘felt benefit’ of influence, in this case, will be shared by some friends. Christianity is a Religion of Power and Pleasure.