and judas and silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words. and after they had spent some time, they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them. but paul and barnabas remained in antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. [acts 15:32-35]


this passage is a beautiful picture of the structure and growth of the early church. three things are in view here as to what was causing growth.


  1. a team effort. there were leaders within the church, teaching and preaching the word, there were missionaries, [judas and silas], who were exhorting, encouraging, strengthening. and there were many others also. this wasn’t paul carrying the weight of the entire church in antioch. there was strength and encouragement and accountability in numbers. many were involved in the great commission, making disciples across the known world.
  2. time. the encouragement and strengthening took commitment. judas and silas took time away from their families, their work, and even their own ministry to go and encourage the body in antioch. paul and barnabas remained. they realized that it was the long game they were playing. the teaching and preaching of the word took perseverance and patience. their eyes had to be firmly fixed on the mission of the gospel, while being extremely patient with new believers as the new believers began to learn a completely new way of life.
  3. the word. the church had just received correction in their doctrinal error. they rejoiced at the correction, but judas and silas were willing to help them to walk that out for some time, realizing that the teaching of the word would be needed to solidify these new truths. teaching and preaching the word was the main ministry of paul and barnabas, constantly building the body up in the word. this doesn’t happen without hours and hours in the word. they knew the scriptures, and now were getting to proclaim how the Word made flesh had fulfilled it all, and teaching what it now meant to be a follower of Christ.


as you evaluate your own heart and life in these three areas, where do you find yourself lacking? are you part of the team effort to build up the body and carry the gospel, or do you leave that work to older, more mature, more capable, less busy believers? are you willing to persevere with much time and patience as you work toward to growth of younger disciples, or are you overly protective of your time and schedule, seeing other things as more important? are you drinking in the word and letting it flow out often to the benefit of others and the building up of the church, or are you struggling with motivation to know the word? these areas are not just for church leaders! they are for every believer!


Jesus asked his followers to fulfill this great commission. are you willing to sit down and count the cost of following him? are you willing to lay down your life and desires to make disciples here at matthias, here in missouri, or across the world?


Father, give us a love for your bride! give us zeal for your name! give us the boldness and love and sacrifice that you have called us to for the sake of your kingdom. give us the Spirit in greater measure, and show us what it means to seek you with our whole heart. amen.


~arwen eastman