This is a word to my beloved friends who are a part of The Antioch Group. You and your love are so valued. Here are some thoughts about what The Antioch Group stands for, and what constitutes its reason to be.
In 1 Peter 3 the Apostle urged the saints to be “always ready to make your defense to anyone who asks from you a reason for the hope which you cherish . . .” It’s important to be able to share the rationale behind our faith practice and what our focus and priorities are.
Like all believers, we want to worship, study the Word, and fellowship. Every Christian endeavor finds its genesis in someone’s understanding of the gospel of Christ, and how they believe it may best be lived. But it’s not enough to simply say; for example, “We stand for the Bible!” Almost everyone says that, but there’s no wholesale agreement on what it actually says, or means, or what deserves the highest priority. Nor can you just say, “We‘re about the truth!” Everyone claims to have the truth, but the differences between what one group calls truth and another may be significant.
“Well, we’re just about Jesus!” Which one? The radical rabbi, the gentle shepherd, the witty teacher, the pacifist, the symbolic Jesus, the figurehead Jesus, the inclusive friend-of-everybody Jesus?
Those terms, ‘gospel’, ‘truth’, and even ‘Jesus,’ have become convoluted in the modern mind. They represent different things to different people, so it is difficult to speak of Antioch’s role in the Christian community in those terms. So, let’s take a different tack.
In my view, there are two historical events that supply the credibility and power to the story of Jesus Christ, and drive our expectations about our involvement with Him. The first is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and the second is the advent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Every professing Christian must come to terms with these events. Did they actually occur as the scriptures record them, and what are the implications of both?
If one accepts the resurrection as an historical fact it significantly alters ones perspective about reality. In the natural order, the dead do not rise. So, by Jesus Christ we are introduced to a new order of reality based on the will and discretion of God. Things now are not always as they appear; there is another, higher order at work around and among us.
Likewise, if we accept the record of the advent of the Holy Spirit as a truly historical event, then there is a stunningly powerful dynamic that enters the Christian equation that must be reckoned with. This event did not involve Jesus, but rather the men and women he had entrusted with His message. In both cases, however, there was clearly an interaction between the human and the divine that transcended what is considered routine, or normal from the human standpoint.
“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” -Romans 10:9
On the basis of Jesus’ resurrection the Apostles argued that He was shown to be precisely Who He claimed to be, the Son of God, and the Christ, the Messiah. Christians believe that. But the resurrection also suggests the power of God over death and decay of every kind. And to those dark realities the Apostles brought the power of prayer, proclamation, and prophecy, made possible by the glorious advent of the Holy Spirit.
“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnessed to Me . . .” all over the world. (Acts 1:8) The Spirit’s presence in and through our lives should give real-time testimony to the reality of the risen Jesus Christ. His Spirit will empower us to speak and act for Him in the marketplace of life, not just in the church. Life in Christ is always potent!
So, building on these two titanic events, we’ve constructed a very simple but focused viewpoint about living as a Christian, both individually and together:
After Jesus’ ascension, the focus of Divine activity is in the human heart. “God is working in you both to will and to do His good pleasure.” He’s concerned about building men and women; building you.
Every believer has, by the scriptures and the Spirit, the wit, will, and wisdom to discern God’s heart and order his life in a way that pleases Him.
You are the Plan. It is God’s joyful intention to express His life through your life by means of your moment to moment response to the voice and movements of His Spirit within you. That’s the plan.
God is still acting and communicating today. His voice is His word, and the inspired prayers and declarations of the saints, informed and supported by His word. “How is it then? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” (1 Cor. 14:26) Because Jesus’ Spirit lives in us, the Christian dynamic for life and service becomes personal, positive, and prophetic.
When Christians come together for any reason, God is present, and the environment is to have priority over anything organizational. In other words, it is our first responsibility to discern the will and mind of the Spirit whenever the saints gather. His priorities are almost always edification and meeting needs. It’s His business. Our agenda may have to wait.
The role of pastoral leadership is to “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by constraint but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly, nor as being Lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2) Shepherds see that the sheep are fed and protected. Other than that, they lead by example.
This is a thumbnail sketch of what The Antioch Group is about; create a safe, free, and unscripted environment where the saints may engage the Lord, and along with experienced leaders, minister to one another through the guidance and inspiration of the Spirit. The Lord must remain sovereign in the Christian gatherings, and our priority is to be sure He is free to reveal and express Himself through His Body. That’s pretty much it.
Much of Modern Christianity doesn’t function that way. It is driven by other priorities which usually support the institutional model of the church. For everyone, that is a choice. (1 Cor. 3:9-12) I was asked recently about my vision for Antioch. My response? “The next meeting.” That’s not a flippant statement; until the Lord shows us differently our priority is preparing ourselves to minister to the Lord with the people who gather next time.
There is nothing special about The Antioch Group. The pattern is as old as the Bible. Chesterton said, “People are always craving something new because they have never really experienced the glories of the old.”
We think the Bible exemplifies, and the Lord expects that we make a place for, not only His glorification, but also for His participation. Worship always has a destination, and it is the manifestation of God among His people. (1 Cor. 12:7) We value that highly, but it does not just ‘happen.’ It is a climate that must be cultivated and protected. We pray you’ll help us maintain that!