The Church That Changed the World - Radical

The Church That Changed the World

Can one local church be used for the spread of the gospel among all nations? This is precisely what God did with the church at Antioch in Acts 13:1–12. In this message, David Platt points out five characteristics of the church at Antioch that should inform the mission of every local church. The spread of the gospel by God’s people is ultimately dependent on His power.

If you have a Bible—and I hope you do—let me invite you to open with me to the Book of Acts 13.  McLean.  It’s good to be back with you.

Before we dive into the Word, I want to take you on a quick journey with me to Bihar, India—one of the most spiritually and physically impoverished places on the planet.  Bihar is a state in India about the size of Virginia.  The only difference is Virginia has about eight-million people and Bihar has about one hundred-million people spread out across forty-five-thousand different villages.  The majority of these people are extremely poor; millions of them living in desperate poverty.  The majority of them are unreached by the gospel.

Bihar is approximately .1% Christian.  Most Indians in Bihar have been Hindu for generations.  The death rate in that region was about five-thousand people per day, which means that every day approximately four-thousand-nine-hundred-ninety-five people plunge into an eternal hell every day; most have never heard the gospel.

I want to introduce you to two followers of Christ. Their names are Anil and Hari.  Anil is a school superintendent and Hari is a chicken-farmer.  Three years ago, these brothers in Christ were struggling in their faith, trying to share the gospel, but not seeing any fruit from it.  They went to some training in disciple making that we helped to provide.  At this training, they studied Luke 10 where Jesus and His disciples were sent out two-by-two.  They were encouraged to get together with somebody else and go into a village where there are no Christians and no church.  Once in the village, the first person to come up to them to talk with them, they were instructed to say to them, “Hi, we’re here in the name of Jesus and we’d like to pray for your village.  How can we pray for your village?”

This is what they were being told to do at this training, but Anil and Hari looked at each other and said, “This will never work.  Nothing we do ever works, so we might as well try it.”  So, they got together one day and they went into a village where they knew there are no Christians and no church—that’s not hard to find in Bihar.  Most of the time when they walk into a village, nobody even talks to them and they think, “This doesn’t work.”

They got to the end of the village and finally a guy came up to them and said, “Hey, what are you guys doing here?” and so Anil and Hari started their pre-scripted line: “Hi, we’re here in the name of Jesus and we would…”  Before they could get out the rest of their line, the guy stopped them and said, “Did you just say Jesus?  I’ve heard a little bit about Him.  Can you guys tell me more?”  To which Anil and Hari, looking at each other, said, “Yes, we can tell you more.”

They started to share the gospel, but as they start sharing, the guy stopped them and this is where Anil and Hari were thinking, “Oh, it’s about to go off the rails,” but the guy said, “Wait a minute.  I really want my friends and family to hear what you have to say about Jesus.  Can you wait until I gather them together and then tell all of us?”

Anil and Hari looked at each other and said, “Yes, that would be fine.”

They followed this guy to his house.  He sat them down outside his house and left to get a group of friends and family members; they all gathered around Anil and Hari.  They sat in front of them and said, “Now, please tell us about Jesus.”

Anil and Hari started sharing the gospel and this was the first time these people had ever heard Who Jesus is and what Jesus has done.  Over the next two weeks, about 20 people in that village came to faith in Christ.

That’s glorious and clap-worthy, but the story gets better after that.  Anil and Hari looked at these 20 new believers and said,” Alright, here’s what we’re going to do.  You’re going to get in groups of two and you’re going to find some other villages and when you go in, you’re going to use this line and you’re going to think it’s not going to work, but it worked on you guys so, you’re going to go do the same thing.  We’re going to see what happens.”

That was three years ago.  Three years later, churches have started in 350 different villages in that part of Bihar, India.

I sat with Anil and Hari and I asked them, “How do you explain what you have seen?”

These guys just smiled and shrugged their shoulders and said, “Only God could do this.”

I see things like this around the world.  I could tell you other similar stories and I praise God for what He’s doing in places over there like that.

At the same time, I’ve got to be honest with you.  I long to see God do that kind of work here.  Don’t you?  I don’t want to just hear about what God is doing in power over there.  I want to be a part of His power at work here.  I want to see movement of disciples being made and churches being multiplied here in a way that causes us to shrug our shoulders and say, “Only God could do this.”

I share that story because, as I’ve been walking through this journey of 40 days of prayer with you and for you, as I’m serving in this interim role, this has become my prayer for McLean Bible Church.  I look at this church.  I see God’s grace all over it in so many ways for so many years and I’ve been driven to pray that God would pour out His grace on this place, among this people, in such a way, that disciples might be made and churches might be multiplied in and across metro-D.C. and across the world through this church.  I know that might sound idealistic to some, but I don’t believe it is if we believe the Bible.

I want to take you to Acts 13 and show you one church that literally changed the world (and that is not an over-exaggeration).  In Acts 13, we’re about to see a global movement start with one moment in one local church.  As a result of this moment that we’re about to read about in Antioch, over the next two-hundred years, the entire Roman world would be reached with the gospel.  Over the next two-thousand years, that gospel would go to most every single country in the world and this movement on missions started with one local church.

Up to this point, in the Book of Acts, no church had intentionally sent people out for the spread of the gospel to other places among the nations.  Individuals had gone different places.  Some people had been scattered due to persecution.  We see that in Acts 7-, but until now no church in the New Testament had willfully, deliberately sent out members to people and places that the gospel had not gone to yet, but all of that was about to change with the church at Antioch—with this local church.

I read this text when studying this week and I just thought about this local church.  I thought about McLean.  I thought about the opportunity this church has to see disciples made and churches multiplied across Metro-D.C. and around the world.  If 20 believers in Bihar, India filled with the Spirit of God, proclaiming the gospel of God could see what they have seen, how much more could we see with 10,000 believers at McLean filled with the Spirit of God proclaiming the gospel of God?

In that light, I want to challenge you.  I want to challenge this church with five characteristics of the church in Antioch that I pray will be characteristics of McLean Bible Church.  Let’s read the text in Acts 13:1. This is the Word of God:

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.  But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.  But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?  And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand.  Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

Five characteristics of the church at Antioch:

Acts 13:1–12 Tells Us They Were United Around the Word of God

The passage starts with a list of leaders in the church at Antioch and it is diverse.  You’ve got Barnabas—who we’ve seen before in Acts; he’s a Levite from Cyprus.  We have Simeon, called Niger—literally Simeon called “the black one.”  He’s dark-skinned; likely from North Africa.  You’ve got Lucius of Cyrene.  You have Manaen who the text says is a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch.  Herod the tetrarch is the king who beheaded John the Baptist, who played a part in the crucifixion of Christ.  It’s a little unclear, but Manaen was possibly brought up with him as a foster-brother, a close friend, something along those lines.  Then, you’ve got Saul—former persecutor of Christians.  That is quite a list.  Different leaders from different places with different backgrounds, but notice what united them together.  They were prophets and teachers of God’s Word.

This is a theme we see over and over again in Acts and all across the New Testament.  We see over and over again this one foundation in the church: The Word of God proclaimed and taught.

The church at Antioch was not built on Paul or Barnabas or Lucius or Simeon or Manaen, it was built on the Word.  Which is a constant reminder for McLean, right?  Isn’t it good to be reminded by the very name of this church that McLean is not built on Lon Solomon or Dale Sutherland or Mike Kelsey anybody else?  This church is built on the Word of God.  It doesn’t even matter which pastor is teaching as long as they’re teaching the Word of God.  God’s Word unites leaders in the church and God’s Word unites members in the church.

Back in Acts 11, we were introduced to the church of Antioch.  We saw diversity there.  The church wasn’t just made up of Jewish believers, but also Greeks and Gentiles and Jews which was an anomaly in the first century to see Jews and Gentiles together, eating together, fellowshipping together, worshiping together.  How did that happen?  They weren’t looking to their ethnicity to unite them.  They were looking to God’s Word.  Specifically, the gospel to bring them together.

I look out across this church and I see all kinds of different people.  I see people who grew up in or around Metro-D.C., many who grew up far from here; many in entirely different countries.  I see people who grew up in the church, others who grew up far from the church.  I see people with different political opinions, different ideological positions and it’s always good to remember that what unites us in the church is not our background, our history, our ethnicity, our ideology or our politics.  What unites us is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Word of God upon which we stand together.

This is really important to hear, especially for those of you who are not Christians right now.  First, we are glad you are here.  We want you to know that what unites this gathering together is not our politics.  It’s not our preferences.  What unites us is the fact that we are all sinners who have rebelled against a Holy God—and it has looked different in each one of our lives, but at the core, it’s rebellion against Him—but we have learned from the Bible that God loves us so much; that He’s not left us alone in our sin.  He has sent His Son to pay the price for our sin; to die on the cross to take the judgement due our sin upon Himself and then to rise from the dead in victory over sin.  So, that by putting our faith in Him, we—rebels against God—have been forgiven of all of our sin and have been reconciled to God.  This is what makes the church.  This is what brings the church together in this area.  It’s not our ethnicity.   It’s not our history.  It’s not our ideology and it’s not any political position in the government.  No, what unites us is the power of the gospel.  We invite you to put your faith in Christ, be forgiven of your sin and be reconciled to God.  This is what makes the church.  They were united around the Word of God.

They Were Enthralled with the Glory of God

The text says in Acts 13:2, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting…”  Notice where this movement on missions started.  It started with worship which is really significant.  What we’re about to see in the Book of Acts is the expansion of the church to the nations.  People’s lives are going to be changed.  Churches are going to be planted.  The gospel is going to spread across the known world in the chapters that follow and it all started with the church at Antioch worshiping.

Witness to the world is born in worship in the church.  People who are passionate about exalting the glory of God will be passionate about spreading the gospel of God.  It is worship that leads to witness.

Think about it.  In this gathering, in this place, we sing a song like “This is Amazing Grace” or “He is Worthy,” and doesn’t it just make sense if we actually believe that, then scatter from this place telling people all around Metro-D.C., “You’ve got to know this grace and give Him glory.”?

It’s worship.  We believe that God is worthy of all glory so, then it just makes sense for us to scatter in Metro-D.C. this week where there are hundreds of thousands of people who we work with and live around who don’t know the grace and glory of our God.  We want them to know how great and glorious He is and it’s why we don’t stop there.  It’s why this church must send out to people, to places in Africa.

Why?  Why must we lift our eyes not just to Metro-D.C., but far beyond Metro-D.C. to a place like Africa where there’s 3,000 animistic tribes right now that are following all kinds of different spirits and gods that are not worthy of glory.  Jesus alone is worthy of glory in every single one of those tribes.  This is why we go.  It’s why this church must send out people to countries like Japan, Laos, and Vietnam.  There are three-hundred-fifty-million Buddhists in those countries who are following Buddha’s rules and Buddha’s regulations and Buddha does not deserve their glory.  Jesus alone deserves all their glory.

That’s why this church must send out people to countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives because there are nine-hundred-fifty-million Hindus in those countries who are following more gods than you or I can even fathom and there’s only One God, His name is Jesus, Who’s worthy of all of their glory.

That’s why this church must send out people to communist countries like China, North Korea, Laos and Cuba because there’s over a billion people who’ve grown up in atheistic environments that completely deny the existence of God and there is a God.  His name is Jesus and He’s worthy of all of their glory.

That’s why this church must send out people to hard places like the Middle East and North Africa, Central Asia because there’s over 1.5 billion Muslims who are fasting and giving alms and making holy pilgrimages to Mecca and praying five times a day to a false god and Jesus has died on the cross, He’s risen from the grave, He’s ascended on high and He alone is worthy of glory.  A church that believes He’s worthy of that kind of glory will give their lives making His glory known.  May it be so at McLean as it was at Antioch.  May this church be a people who gather together in worship every week enamored by—enthralled with—the glory of God in such a way that they scatter every week proclaiming His goodness and His greatness.  Right where we live and then wherever He leads.

So they were united by the Word of God.  They were enthralled with the glory of God.

Acts 13:1–12 Reminds Us They Were Directed by the Spirit of God

Acts 13:2 says: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting…”  They were fasting.  The leaders and members of this church had set aside food.  Obviously, the text doesn’t say how long—a period of time, a day, maybe many days—they set aside food to seek God; to say to Him, in the words of Jesus in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of Him Who sent Me…”  “Lord, our food is to do Your will; to do Your work.”

Here’s the church in Antioch looking to God for direction saying, “God, what do You want us to do?  How do You want us to make Your gospel and Your glory known in the world?  Show us where to go.  Show us what to do.  Show us who to send out.”

This is God’s design for the posture of His church.  God has designed His church to be directed by His Spirit on mission in the world, which means God has designed McLean to look to Him constantly in prayer and fasting.  This church is to say, “God, more important than even the basic daily necessity of food, we just want to do whatever You want us to do.  Show us how to make Your gospel known in D.C.  Show how to make Your glory known among the nations.  Show us what to do, where to go.  Show us who to send out.  We’ll do whatever You say.”

That’s why I want to look at this next characteristic of the church and then I’ll tie them together.  They were directed by the Spirit of God and…

Acts 13:1–12 Shares That They Were Surrendered to the Mission of God

They were willing to do whatever God said to do.  So they were worshiping and fasting, saying, “God, show us where to go.  Show us what to do.  Show us who to send out,” and what does the Spirit say?  “…the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’” (Acts 13:2b).  Now that is quite a verse.

Do you realize what just happened?  Just put yourself in the shoes of church members at Antioch.  You’ve got the Apostle Paul in your church.  He’s a pretty sharp dude.  He wrote most of the New Testament.  You’ve got Barnabas.  Everybody loves this man.  He’s the encourager.  Everybody loves to be around him.  Both of these guys came to the church at Antioch early-on; started teaching there.  Needless to say, they were well received, but now the Holy Spirit says, “I want them to go.”  If you’re a member of that church, you’re thinking, “No.  I mean, are we sure the Holy Spirit said Saul and Barnabas, not Sam and Patribus?  I mean, they kind of sound the same, right?  Now, let’s just be honest, Sam over here is a little more expendable in the church at Antioch.  He’s a great guy, but we could do without Sam.  If Saul leaves, we’ve got problems, right?”

Here’s the beauty of the church at Antioch.  They were willing to send out their best.  The church at Antioch knew that you don’t negotiate with the Spirit of God.  You obey the Spirit of God.  This church so directed by the Spirit of God, so surrendered to the mission of God that as soon as the Spirit said to send out their best, the very next verse says: “Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:3).

In this, the church at Antioch has something to teach us.  Follow closely with me here.  What if the success of a church is not determined by how many people come into a building, but by how many people leave that building to take on the world with the gospel?  What if the most important metric in a church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity?

Now, don’t get me wrong.  It is awesome to think about the thousands of people who are gathered together at McLean today and gather on a weekly basis, but what if it’s far more important to think about the potential thousands of people sent out from McLean for the spread of the gospel around the world?

This is a powerful picture in Acts 13.  The church was laying hands on members, even leaders whom they loved saying, “We’re sending you out for the spread of the gospel to places and people where it’s not yet gone.”  The success of the church at Antioch would no longer be measured merely by what happened at Antioch.  The success of the church at Antioch would reach far beyond Antioch for the glory of God’s name.

This is where I want to pause and think about this at McLean and praise God for how this has happened.

I want to introduce you to three people as they join me up here and it is pure providence—God’s direction—that they would be here on this Sunday when we’re looking at this text.  So, the first two are Liz and Morris.  Those who’ve been around McLean the longest know Morris and Liz.  Liz’s family was one of the founding families at this church.  Also, Will and Mary Roundy, three years after McLean was founded, the Roundy’s were sent out from McLean to be missionaries in South America.  Just in case you have this picture of a young, idealistic missionary couple, Will Roundy was 50-years-old when he took his family overseas.  Liz, the youngest, was thirteen when they started training; sixteen when they moved.  So, in God’s direction, Liz came back to attend Bible school and training here to go overseas and met Morris.  They were married at McLean in 1975.  Soon thereafter—40 years -ago next month—Liz and Morris were sent out to serve in South America.  They were sent out among a remote Indian tribe—this is a tribe that had no written language—but God used Liz and Morris to develop one.

Let’s pause for a second and just let that soak in.  Has anybody else in this room developed an alphabet before?  Not learned one, but made one up and people are using it.  They created a written language for this tribe, taught the people to read and write and then translated the New Testament into that language.  Then they translated over five-thousand verses of the Old Testament into that language.  They’re working on Proverbs right now, but this is the Old Testament as it is right now.  They also created discipleship curriculum around it.  They’ve planted 12 different churches and have seen half of that entire tribe hear the gospel when they have never heard the gospel before.

Today, this brother and sister are the only people who are active workers outside of that tribe who speak the language of that tribe.  In 2006, they were kicked out of tribal territory by the government.  Which might lead some to think the work was over, but far from it.  The tribal church elders told Liz and Morris, “God’s Word cannot be stopped.  You keep translating the Bible and discipleship lessons.  We’ll take care of the work even if you can never come back.”  This tribal church is now sending out missionaries to other tribal groups around them.

Then this is Rudy over here.  Rudy grew up in Northern California.  He stabbed his first person at the age of 13.  He was in and out of prison until he was 34.  He led a gang and was locked up in many different prisons.  He spent years in solitary confinement.  He has recounted the story to me of stabbing a guy in the prison yard when a guard shot at him.  That led to that guard giving him a Bible and Rudy found himself locked up in solitary confinement where he fell on his knees and became a follower of Christ.

When Rudy was released from prison, he met Carlos—the missionary McLean partners with in Mexico—and Carlos asked him to come help him in the work there.  For the last 16 years, Rudy has been involved in leading churches, a rehab center and a mission for homeless men.  He’s married.  He and his wife have an 11 and a 10-year-old and the reason he’s here this weekend is because McLean is giving him and the ministry there in Mexico the keys to two of the McLean vehicles.

In these brothers and sisters, I give you a picture of how God is using McLean in ways far beyond these seats for His glory.  This is even an incomplete picture.  Morris and Liz are just one part of the Roundy picture.  When the Roundy’s were sent out, three out of four of Liz’s siblings were serving or have served over-seas as missionaries.

I just want to challenge McLean to send out multitudes more people like Will and Mary Roundy and Morris and Liz and support all the more brothers like Rudy for the spread of the gospel, not just here, but far from here.  Would you join me in giving God glory for His grace in and through these brothers and sisters?  It’s just not a coincidence that they would be in town on this weekend with our study from Acts 13 today.

A church united by the Word of God and enthralled with the glory of God, directed by the Spirit of God, abandoned to the mission of God and then the last characteristic of the church in Antioch…

Acts 13:1–12 Explains How They Were Enabled by the Power of God

They were sent out from the church by the Spirit.  Paul and Barnabas went down to Seleucia then to Cyprus.  As the story goes, they were preaching the gospel on that island, and the proconsul—which is another word for the governor, the leader of the islands—said, “I want to meet with you and hear what you are saying.”  So, all of a sudden, these nobodies from Antioch have just been summoned to meet with the governor to share the gospel.  When they got there, there was this guy named Bar-Jesus, which technically means “son of Joshua.”  He’s later called “Elymas.”  He was a magician and a false prophet.  Paul and Barnabas started sharing the gospel with the governor and David Copperfield over here tried to keep the governor from believing it.  What did Paul do?  He stares him down.  Just imagine his gaze.

At the end of Acts 13:9, Paul just looked at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of deceit and villainy…”  Paul was not beating around the bush here.  He was going right for the jugular.  Paul said, “…stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?  And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind…” and immediately, Elymas’ sight went dark.  Paul turned back to the governor and said, “Now, where were we?” and the governor said, “I believe this gospel.”

Don’t miss what we’re seeing here.  This is so important.  A church that is serious about spreading the gospel will face fierce spiritual warfare.  Don’t think for a second that the more McLean gives itself to missions in D.C. and the ends of the earth, the easier it will get.  The more McLean gives itself to missions, the harder it will get.  There is an adversary, the devil, who is dead-set on keeping this church from proclaiming this gospel.  He doesn’t want the gospel going forward in D.C.  He doesn’t want the glory of God going to the nations, so a church that is serious about proclaiming the gospel, the glory of God will find itself on the frontlines of all-out spiritual war.  We know this.  Satan is working constantly to keep us—you, me, members across the church—silent with the gospel.  He’s working to keep us quiet before coworkers; quiet before neighbors; quiet before friends and family members even.  Satan is working to keep this church from sending people out for the spread of the gospel to the nations, but notice Acts 13:9.  Right before Paul looked into Elymas’ eyes, what did the Bible say?  “But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said…”

There is a filling of God’s Spirit that accompanies God’s people with power when they are on the frontlines of mission.  A filling of God’s Spirit and power that enables God’s people to do what they could never do on their own.  It enables them to speak with boldness; to see God do what only God can do and here’s the amazing thing.  The exact same Spirit Who filled Paul in that moment is the exact same Spirit Who is dwelling in every follower of Christ right now.  That is an awesome thought.

It’s the same Spirit that’s going to be with you at your workplace and in your neighborhood this week.  During that opportunity you have to share the gospel, the same Spirit—the same power at work in you—wants to enable you to do what you could never do on your own.  He wants to enable this church to do what this church could never do on its own.

I was in Indonesia, the largest Muslim dominated country in the world.  I was teaching at a seminary where, in order to graduate, the students are required to plant a church in a Muslim community with at least 30 new baptized believers.  I was speaking at their graduation and every single student in front of me had done just that.  The most somber moment at the graduation was when we had a moment of silence for two of their classmates who had died at the hands of Muslim persecutors in the process.

I was talking to one of the graduates named Raydon who shared this story with me: “Before I became a Christian, I was a fighter.”  He said he knew ninja, ju-jitsu and he named some other techniques for taking people down.  As I was listening, I made a mental note to not mess with Raydon.

He told me a story about one day when he was sharing the gospel in an unreached village with people who had never heard of Jesus.  He was in a house with a family when the witch-doctor from that village came to that house.  Now witch-doctors are common in villages like this; holding spiritual sway over villages with their curses and incantations.  Raydon said the witch-doctor called him out of the house, basically, wanting to fight with him.  To which Raydon, with all his martial arts skills, said, “My first thought was to walk out and take the witch-doctor down,” but he said when he turned to go outside he sensed God say to him, “You don’t do the fighting anymore.  I do the fighting for you.”  Raydon said he walked outside, pulled up a chair, sat down in front of the witch-doctor and said, “I don’t do the fighting.  My God does the fighting for me.”

Then Raydon shared what happened next.  He said, “As the witch-doctor started to speak back to me, he suddenly began gasping for air.”  He was choking.  He couldn’t breathe.  People came running over to see what was happening and within a few minutes, the witch-doctor had fallen over dead.  Within minutes, the whole village had crowded around this scene and Raydon said, “I had never seen anything like this.  I didn’t know what to do.  But then I thought maybe should preach the gospel.  So that’s what I did and many people in that village trusted in Christ for the first time that day.”

Now, I’m not necessarily recommending that particular strategy in the church.  I’m not recommending you pull up some chairs and make some pronouncements like Raydon did.  But as I listened to that story, it was a clear reminder to me that when people proclaimed the name of Jesus two-thousand years ago, it caused the blind to see, the lame to walk and the dead to rise.  The name of Jesus had the power to cause evil spirits to flee and cause even the most hardened hearts to come to God.  The reality is the name of Jesus still has power two-thousand years later.

What other explanation is there for how one lowly church—the church at Antioch—sent out two missionaries and turned the world upside down?  The church at Antioch is a testimony to the power of God at work in the world.

What other explanation is there for how two guys in Bihar, India can go into one village and three years later churches have been started in 350 different villages.  The church at Bihar is a testimony to the power of God at work in the world.

What about McLean Bible Church?  What does God desire to do in and through this church as a testimony to His power at work in the world?  As a testimony to His power at work in D.C. and far from D.C. for the glory of His name?  May this church be united around the Word of God, enthralled with the glory of God, directed by the Spirit of God, abandoned to the mission of God and enabled by the power of the God to do that which can only be explained by His hand at work.

Will you bow your head with me in prayer?  In light of God’s Word to us I want to lead us in prayer before Him in two ways.  First, I want to invite you to pray for an Antioch-like movement in McLean Bible Church for the glory of God.  Praise God for how He has done that in the past.  Praise Him for the stories we’ve heard and then spend a moment right now praying, “God, we want to do Your work in the world.  Show us what to do.  Show us who You’re sending out.  Show us how to spread the gospel in D.C. and to all the nations.  We want to do whatever You want us to do.  Use our church for the spread of Your glory in this city and far from this city.”  Ask God, right now, in an Antioch-like way, for Him to do in and through this church what can only be explained by His power.

Then, would you take that kind of big praying and bring it down to your own life individually?  In just a few minutes, we’re about to scatter from this worship gathering to be witnesses throughout Metro-D.C. over the course of the next week.  We pray for the filling of God’s Spirit to proclaim the gospel this week.  Pray that God would give you power to do that which only He can do this week.  Would you pray for boldness to share the gospel with somebody this week?  Maybe even picture individuals in your life—who you work with, who you live around, who are in your home—who don’t know Jesus.  Would you pray for an opportunity to share the gospel with them this week, to tell them how good God is?  How gracious He is.  Pray for opportunity to share with them.  Pray for boldness to take advantage of that opportunity and pray that God would draw somebody in your life to Himself this week through you.  Would you just ask Him to do that?

Oh, God, we praise You.  We worship You and all of Your glory.  We praise You for Your love, mercy, justice, righteousness and Your holiness.  Jesus, we praise You.  We praise You for the cross.  We praise You for taking the price of our sin upon Yourself.  We praise You for rising from the dead.  We praise You as our ascended King on high and we confess we believe Your name is great.  We believe Your name has power to save.

So we’re asking, oh God, show the power of Your name to save this week.  Across Metro-D.C. as we scatter, Lord, show the power of Your name to save.  We pray that You would grant us boldness to share the gospel this week.  Open doors for the gospel to go forward.  Grant us victory in spiritual warfare.  Draw people in Metro-D.C. to Yourself this week, we pray.

God, we pray in light of what we see You doing in the New Testament, what we see You doing in places around the world, God, would You in Your mercy see fit to do that here?  God, we ask that disciples would be made and churches be multiplied in a way that only Your name can receive glory through this church.  God, would You do that which can only be explained by Your hand?  We want to be able to shrug our shoulders and say, “Only God could do this.”  We ask these things, oh God, for the glory of Your great name, with confidence in Your great name. In the name of Jesus, we pray these things.  Amen.

David Platt

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical.

David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Don’t Hold Back, Radical, Follow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, as well as the multiple volumes of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series.

Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.


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