March 2008


     The late great African American Southern Baptist pastor, Dr. George McCalep often stated that “the church at her birth was the church at her best.”  In the book of Acts we see the church at her birth and at her best.  The book of Acts records the history of the Christian church from the ascension of Jesus through the missionary journeys of Paul.  There is much that the 21st century church can learn from the 1st century church – the first Gentile church, the mother of all others that was named after an ancient Syrian city called Antioch.           

     The first lesson that we learn from the church at Antioch is the fact that this church was birthed by a multi-ethnic church planting team.  “Men from Cyprus [a southern European country] and Cyrene [a northeast African country] when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists [Greeks], preaching the Lord Jesus” (Acts 11:19,20).  In the book of Acts sometimes we see Greek men witnessing to Africans and Asians (Acts 6:8-15, 8:26-40) and we also see African men witnessing to Greek men (Acts 11:19,20).  In Acts 8:26-40, God used a Greek speaking man (Phillip) to share the gospel with an unnamed African man who was reading from a Jewish Bible while riding in a Roman province.  God wants those of us who know Christ to witness and birth churches that witness to those who do not know Christ irrespective of their color or ethnic identity.  The African and European men who planted the church at Antioch were probably Jewish believers who were converted to Christ at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11) and “scattered” to Antioch from Jerusalem during the time of great persecution inflicted upon believers in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1).  Many of the Jews at Pentecost and at Antioch were proselytes (Acts 2:10, 6:5).  Jewish people usually share in common the same physical features the natives of that country have.  The church at Antioch was planted by African Christian men and European Christian men from a Jewish background.  Again, the church at Antioch was birth by a multi-ethnic church planting team, “men from Cyprus and Cyrene” (Acts 11:20,21).           

     Antioch was a multi-ethnic city.  It was the third largest city in the Roman Empire (after Rome and Alexandria) with a population in the first century of about 500,000.  A cosmopolitan and commercial city from its foundations, its inhabitants or citizens included many Jews, Africans, Europeans and Asians.  Situated on the left bank of the Orantes River, about 15 miles from the Mediterranean and with caravan roads emerging upon it from the East, Antioch was accessible by boats and caravans to and from Africa, Europe and Asia.  The church planting team and the city of Antioch was multi-ethnic.  Consequently, the church at Antioch became a multi-ethnic congregation.           

     The second lesson we learn from the church at Antioch, is that it was led by a multi-ethnic leadership team.  This mother congregation was led by Barnabas (European-Cyprus) (Acts 13:1), Simeon who was called Niger (African), Lucius of Cyrene (African) Manean (believed to have been Roman-European), friend of Herod Antipas (Roman) and Saul (Tarsus-Southwest Asia).  This multi-ethnic leadership team led the congregation to practice cross cultural evangelism (Acts 11:20-26).  A married couple comprised of two different races doesn’t have to try and produce a multi-racial child.  As a natural by product of their “fellowship” a child conceived from this union will be multiracial.         

     The Antioch Network of Churches aspires to return to our biblical roots – the 1st century model and reflect multi-ethnic leadership and produce multi-ethnic church plants and send out multi-ethnic missionary/leadership teams that reflect the biblical church at Antioch.            We believe that it’s God’s perfect will for the churches on earth to look like the multi-ethnic make up of Heaven (Rev. 5:9, 7:9). Our network will pray and labor to plant and develop churches that look like Heaven.           

     The Bible provides a prophetic portrait of an eschatological (end times) spiritual awakening among God’s people that specifically includes people of every nation (Acts 2:5, 2:17; Hosea 6:3; Isaiah 66:19-23; Daniel 7:14; Malachi 1:11).  The ANC will avail ourselves to the sovereign God of Heaven to be used (if He so chooses) as a conduit of revival and spiritual awakening that He wants to pour out on His people.           

     The third and most important lesson that we learn from the church at Antioch is that they majored in missions, ministry, worship, fasting, evangelism, benevolence, church planting and spiritually gifted leadership (Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-4).  They were effective as the church at Jerusalem with the doctrine of Christ (Acts 5:28).  The church at Antioch was Spirit led, Spirit filled, spiritually gifted, spiritually blessed and worshipped God in Spirit and in truth.           

     The church at Antioch gave rise to a school of thought distinguished by literal interpretation of the scriptures.  Like the church at Antioch, the ANC believe that the Bible is God’s pure (Prov. 30:5), perfect (Psalm 19:7), powerful and inspired (II Tim. 3:16) absolutely without error in the original manuscript and reliable translations are authoritative, accurate, authentic and “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (II Tim. 3:16,17). 

     The biblical basis, philosophy, mission, vision and purpose of the ANC is inextricably correlated with and modeled after the New Testament church of Antioch.  Our reason for being is to provide a conduit for the sovereign God of the Universe to glorify Himself through His people of every kindred, tongue, tribe and nation cooperating together to plant local churches, serve and revitalize local churches and to expand the witness of the church to the ends of the earth so that all men would be drawn unto Him (John 12:32).

     The Psalmist declared, “one generation shall praise your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4). What are lessons today’s Baptists and evangelicals can learn from our Baptist and evangelical heritage that would speak to our generation?

The Charlestonian Baptist Tradition 

     The Charlestonian Baptists were also known as the Regular or Particular Baptists. They were known for their Reformed, or Calvinistic theology, a commitment to doctrinal purity and precision, structure, formal worship, theological training and dialogue, and social and spiritual sophistication. Today they would be referred to as “high church” or “silk stocking” Baptists in White and Black church settings, respectively. The Regular Baptist churches (Charlestonian Baptist) were mostly in urban areas and they shied away from the revival emotions that accompanied the First and Second Great Awakenings. The Charleston tradition believed in providing education and organization for Baptists in the South.  Their worship and preaching were more formal and less emotional.  Walter B. Shurden described the “Charleston Tradition” with its grace and dignity as emphasizing theological order in their confession of faith, ecclesiological order in their “Summary of Church Discipline”… their liturgical order with their dignified worship and stately hymns and their ministerial order in their emphasis upon a trained minister.” 

The Sandy Creek Baptist Tradition 

Sandy Creek Baptists were also known as Separate Baptists, and they were known for their devotion to fervent and free worship, evangelism, and church planting.  The Separate Baptists were dedicated to the “old time religion.” They preached a “whosoever will” gospel with strong gestures, tears, and altar calls during which the preachers left the platform and went through the congregation exhorting sinners to come forward to be saved.  The entire congregation sang the gospel in folk tunes. Songs such as Amazing Grace were set to these folk tunes. They rattled the rafters with their songs and were free to testify in church, say “amen” or “glory,” and run or shout if they were moved by the Holy Spirit. The Separate Baptists most distinctive feature was their emotional style preaching and worship. Outcries, epilepsies and ecstasies attended their meetings. Shouting, weeping, and falling down in a faint were not uncommon. They often danced in the spirit during worship.  Women assumed a more prominent role among the Separate Baptists.  There were elderesses and deaconesses, and some women also preached and prayed in public. The role of women at Sandy Creek was initially problematic for the Charlestonian Baptists. Walter B. Shurden described the Sandy Creek tradition as people of “Ardor”.  He writes, “their worship was revivalistic: Faith was feeling and every Sunday was a camp meeting.  Their ministry was charismatic; preaching was a calling and never a profession, and their ecclesiology was independent; their theological approach Biblicist”  Walter Shurden said that they were “semi-pentecostal. 

The Silver Bluff Baptist Church Tradition 

The Silver Bluff Baptist Church tradition was comprised of free and enslaved Blacks who fellowshipped with and were constituted by leaders in the Sandy Creek tradition.  They shared with Sandy Creek Baptists a devotion to exaltation, evangelism, and church planting. The emotional worship style of the Sandy Creek Baptists resonated with the Silver Bluff Baptist and they often enjoyed joint worship and fellowship.  This Black Baptist church can trace her roots back to Sandy Creek. Plantation slave preacher George Liele, the first Black Baptist in Georgia, founded the Silver Bluff Baptist Church in Silver Bluff, South Carolina in 1773. Sandy Creek Baptists strongly opposed slavery, while many Charlestonian Baptists passionately supported slavery. This may also explain why the Silver Bluff Baptists had a strong relationship with Sandy Creek Baptists. Although today all Baptists would agree that slavery is a horrible sin and shame on the legacy of Baptist and American history, the slavery issue initially served as a barrier to Sandy Creek Baptists and Charlestonian Baptists uniting.  The religious expression of the Great Awakening, particularly that of the Separate Baptists, proved to be congenial to the needs of African-Americans and as a threshold to the merging of African and American cultural traditions. One of these itinerants, Waitt Palmer, a White preacher from Connecticut, (the same man involved in Sandy Creek) found willing listeners in two men named David George and Jesse Peters.  Waitt Palmer formed eight residents of Silver Bluff into a church, including George and Jesse Peters.  George Liele preached to the Silver Bluff community after the church was constituted by Waitt Palmer.  This church is arguably the oldest Black Baptist church in America.

The Union – The United Baptist ChurchRegular Baptist (Charleston Tradition) and Separate Baptist (Sandy Creek Tradition) Merge 

H. Leon McBeth in his book, “Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness,” summarizes the tradition debate extremely well when he writes, “The order of Charleston and the ardor of Sandy Creek contribute to the synthesis that made up the Southern Baptist Convention.  Creative elements from both traditions have enriched Southern Baptist life, and like two streams merging into one river, currents from each can still be identified and traced.  The merging of these traditions which continue today; Southern Baptist are still trying to maintain balance between two streams of their heritage, the order of Charleston and the ardor of Sandy Creek”

 

After reading this  DMN article stating that at least 1 in 4 teenage girls have a sexually transmitted disease and 48% of Black teenage girls have an STD,  I thought I would post the Christian Family Manifesto (below) adopted at our 2005 Heritage and Hope Family Conference.  This manifesto was also adopted by a fellowship of pastors called “Not On My Watch” that addressed the same sex marriage challenge our country is facing.

If each believer takes the following Christian Manifesto seriously, we can reverse these statistics.

The Christian Family Manifesto 

Not On My Watch is a fellowship of Pastors dedicated to protecting, preserving and promoting the biblical concept of the family. As we observe families in decline and defeat, we feel compelled to raise a prophetic voice to give encouragement and direction to the family to submit to God’s design for the family; thereby restoring security, stability, structure, and wholesomeness back to family life.

In light of the decline and destruction of today’s family, we offer the following ten (10) biblical recommendations in order to enhance the permanence and prominence of family life. Our goal is to bring joy to the family, not judgment, and we believe these ten (10) statements, if followed, would ultimately bring joy to the family and community.  We believe that the problems of any family will not be solved by the White House, congress, or courts, no matter who is in office. We also believe the plight and problem of American families can be corrected, but it must first start with the man and/or woman who leads each home.

Many of us have violated one or more of these statements. However, we’re grateful that God is a God of forgiveness, a God of a second chance, and a God who loves us when we’ve done wrong, but loves us too much to allow us to continue to do wrong without a word of grace and truth.

We define a family as a single adult head of household, single adult with children, a legally married husband (male) and wife (female), and a legally married husband (male) and wife (female) with children.

 We stand together to promote, protect, and preserve the family. 

  1. We encourage young men and women to flee youthful lust and postpone sex until marriage for moral and economic reasons. (I Corinthians 7:1-2)
  2. We encourage all unmarried couples living together to marry in accordance with God’s Word and will. Again, this provides stability, structure, and security for the family. (I Timothy 5:14)
  3. We encourage intact families with fathers to open their hearts and homes to fatherless children in our communities who desperately need a positive biblical male presence in their lives. (James 1:27)
  4. We want to express love, mercy, grace and truth to those involved in a homosexual lifestyle. We encourage them to receive God’s forgiveness and seek fellowship, restoration and counseling in a Bible believing local church. We further encourage the President and all Democrat and Republican Congressmen to work together to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment. Many of the republican presidential and congressional candidates campaigned on this issue. We respectfully and publicly encourage them to be as diligent in bringing the FMA up for vote, as they did during the campaign and as they have passionately promoted social security reform and judicial nominations. We also encourage families in each state to support State Constitutional Amendments declaring marriages to be between one man and one woman. We further encourage families to support the Federal Marriage Amendment. (Genesis 2:24)
  5. We encourage all men to pay child support voluntarily and without complaining, recognizing this as your reasonable responsibility if you are to be in God’s will. (I Timothy 5:8).
  6. We challenge every man to honor his marriage vows. We encourage men to not pursue or file for divorce and to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. We’re asking men to take responsibility for reducing the large number of divorces and children born out of wedlock by honoring marriage vows and abstaining from fornication and adultery. (Matthew 19:1-9)
  7. We encourage single women to stop sleeping with married men and single men to cease sleeping with married women. This lifestyle works to destabilize and destroy the family when they allow themselves to participate in the violation of marriage vows. (Proverbs 5)
  8. We encourage all men with children to regularly spend time with their children and take the initiative to be involved in their lives in a meaningful way; whether the children live in the home with them or not. (I Timothy 5:8 and Malachi 4:5-6)
  9. We applaud, appreciate, and affirm single mothers and fathers who, for whatever reasons, are raising children without the benefit of a spouse. We encourage them to take advantage of the mentoring programs available in many local churches. (James 1:27)
  10. We encourage all families to tithe a minimum of 10% to the local church, save 10% of their income, and pursue a debt-free lifestyle. (Malachi 3:8-12, Matthew 23:23, Proverbs 6:6-8)

We trust that this Christian Family Manifesto will be accepted in the spirit in which it was given. We publish this manifesto so Christian families can hold each other accountable and to affirm the biblical view of family life in a culture and climate that’s fastly distancing itself from biblical values.

Dr. Sam Storms delivered a message entitled, “Why Antioch” on Monday evening March 3rd at the opening session of the Antioch Network of Churches Exploratory meeting.  Dr. Storms was kind enough to provide for us a manuscript of his message in its entirety.  What you’re about to read is the biblical philosophy of ministry of the ANC.  Enjoy!

Dwight McKissic

Dr. Sam Storms

Enjoying God Ministries

 Why Antioch?(Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-3) 

My single, simple question is: “Why Antioch?” What biblical reasons are there to launch and build this network of churches around the model that we find in that ancient city and church?

Antioch was approximately 350 miles north of Jerusalem and is located in what is now southeastern Turkey and is known as Antakya(pop. 40,000). It was the third largest city in the Greco-Roman world, behind only Alexandria and Rome. Its population ranged anywhere from 250,000 to 500,000. But what was most impressive about this city was the birth therein of a community of believing men and women whose zeal for God and the gospel is worthy of our close attention.

I would like to propose for our consideration a dozen characteristics or spiritual features of the church in Antioch, each of which is worthy of our imitation.

 12 Characteristics of the church at Antioch 

(1) The Christians in Antioch cherished and prized the gospel more than they did staying alive (Acts 11:19). We know this because the gospel itself was proclaimed in Antioch because of persecution. These persecuted evangelists would not have hidden this from the people in Antioch. They would have made quite clear that if you choose to follow Jesus you will suffer persecution and tribulation. The people in Antioch willingly and no doubt joyfully embraced the inevitability of persecution and suffering. Evidently the gospel of Jesus Christ was sufficiently precious to these people that no threat of persecution or oppression or deprivation could deter them from embracing him in faith and love.

  

(2) They were energetically and enthusiastically evangelistic (Acts 11:24). “And a great many people were added to the Lord.” This no doubt came about not only through the witness of Barnabas but also those of Antioch who immediately upon coming to faith in turn witnessed to others!

  

(3) They were hungry for and obedient to the whole counsel of God (Acts 11:25-26). From Acts 20:17-30 (esp. v. 27) we see the focus of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, which no doubt would have been true also in Antioch. He refused to shrink back from declaring the whole counsel of God and those in Antioch would have heartily embraced this as well. No cutting of doctrinal corners. No accommodation to the values of the prevailing culture. No selectivity in what they proclaimed based on what would enhance their status or increase their financial wealth.

  

(4) They were a compassionate and generous people. (Acts 11:27-30). Note well that this monetary gift was from Gentiles to Jews! They refused to let any past wounds or offences or lingering prejudices to hinder their love.

This display of generosity may well have been connected with their practice of fasting (Acts 13:1-3). In Isaiah 58:1-3 God issues an indictment against his people for giving every external appearance of godliness, especially as seen in their fasting. But it was not the sort of fast that God approved. True, heartfelt, godly fasting entails compassion and generosity for those in need:

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Isa. 58:6-7)

Evidently the Christians at Antioch believed that the gospel of salvation in Christ required that they devote themselves to the alleviation of hunger and poverty. They did not fear social justice. They pursued it with self-sacrificial abandonment.

  

(5) They were thoroughly and wholeheartedly Christocentric (Acts 11:27-30). When the surrounding community in Antioch sought to identify these people, what word did they choose, and why? They were not merely “theists” or “believers” or “brethren” or “disciples” or “saints” or even “Baptists”! The key was Jesus Christ. This title was probably given to them by the people of Antioch as they no doubt heard little else from this band of people than Christ! He was the foundation of their identity: not any particular doctrine or church structure or denominational program or theory about private prayer language.

They would never have identified themselves as white Christians, black Christians, or Jewish Christians or Gentile Christians or male Christians or female Christians or continuationist Christians or cessationist Christians. They were simply and solely and sufficiently Christians: partisans of Christ and Christ alone.

  

(6) They were committed to a convergence of word and spirit (Acts 13:1). If only teachers had been present they would never have known who was to go or what they were to do or where it was that God was sending them or when they should depart. No Scripture could provide such answers.

On the other hand, if only prophets had been present they wouldn’t have known that going was a good thing. They wouldn’t have known how to test the voice or how to judge the leading of the Spirit; they would have had no one to instruct them about what to say once they got there!

Word and Spirit were not rivals in Antioch. Teachers and Prophets did not compete but cooperated in the work of God.

  

(7) They were sincerely, and not merely theoretically, multi-ethnic (Acts 13:1). Simeon, called Niger, was probably a black African and may have been the same Simon who carried our Lord’s cross to Calvary(cf. Luke 23:26). Lucius of Cyrene was from North Africa, probably present day Libya.

When I say they were “sincerely” and not merely “theoretically” multi-ethnic I mean that this was not just a principle of doctrine they embraced but also something that was implemented in the life and leadership of the church. There must be a reason why these names are listed and not others, and the likelihood is that they constituted the senior leadership of the church, elders and pastors, as well as teachers and prophets.

  

(8) The diversity in Antioch was not merely racial but also social and economic (Acts 13:1. Manaen, described as “a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch” was either raised as an adopted brother or close companion of Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great. He obviously came from a high social standing and was probably quite wealthy as a result of his royal connections.

  

(9) They were a thoroughly God-intoxicated and theocentric. Note their “worshipping” (lit., “ministering”) in Acts 13:2. Their conscious and deliberate focus was on exultation in God and the exaltation of God.

  

(10) They were passionately committed to the enjoyment of God. In other words, the people at Antioch were Christian Hedonists (Acts 13:2-3). I base this on the fact that they were given over to regular fasting, combined with prayer. But how is this evidence of Christian Hedonism?

The key is to remember that fasting is always motivated by deep desire. Whereas there is certainly a measure of physical pain that comes with fasting, I want to insist that, contrary to popular opinion, fasting is not the suppression of desire but the intense pursuit of it. We fast because we want something more than food. We say no to food for a season only to fill ourselves with something far more tasty, far more filling, far more satisfying. That is to say, if one suppresses the desire for food it is only because he or she has a greater and more intense desire for something more precious. Something of eternal value.

We don’t fast because we hate our bodies and look to punish them. Whatever immediate discomfort we may experience, it is a sacrifice that pays immeasurable long-term benefits. We do not fast for pain, but for the pleasure of experiencing still more of Christ Jesus and the revelation of his powerful presence. In other words, fasting is perfectly consistent with Christian Hedonism!

Observe the connection here of fasting with prayer. Fasting sharpens and intensifies our intercessory prayers. Arthur Wallis has noted that

“Fasting is calculated to bring a note of urgency and importunity into our praying, and to give force to our pleading in the court of heaven. The man who prays with fasting is giving heaven notice that he is truly earnest . . . . Not only so, but he is expressing his earnestness in a divinely-appointed way. He is using a means that God has chosen to make his voice to be heard on high” (42).

 Fasting, therefore, is feasting! So what do you eat when you’re on a fast? God! The ironic thing about fasting is that it really isn’t about not eating food. It’s about feeding on the fullness of every divine blessing secured for us in Christ. Fasting tenderizes our hearts to experience the presence of God. It expands the capacity of our souls to hear his voice and be assured of his love and be filled with the fullness of his joy.  

As strange as it may sound, fasting is all about eating! It is about ingesting the Word of God, the beauty of God, the presence of God, the blessings of God. Fasting is all about spiritual gluttony! It is not a giving up of food for its own sake. It is about a giving up of food for Christ’s sake. As Jesus himself made clear in Matthew 6:16-18, either we abstain from food for the praise of men or for the reward of our heavenly Father. The point is, we are always driven to fast because we hunger for something more than food. Fasting, therefore, is motivated by the prospect of pleasure. The heart that fasts cries out, “This I want more than the pleasure of food!” And “this” can be the admiration that men give to people with will power, or it can be the reward we seek from God alone without regard to the praise of men.

  

(11) They were sensitive to and discerning of the Spirit’s voice (Acts 13:2). There were no cessationists in Antioch. They were not afraid of the Spirit’s supernatural voice. Far from legislating against it, they set aside time in worship, prayer, and fasting to tune their spiritual ears to whatever he might say.

How did the Holy Spirit communicate this message? He likely revealed his will to one or several of the prophets who in turn submitted the revelation to the teachers and apostles to be judged. Was it by a strong impression, a vision, a word? Cf. 8:29; 10:19; 15:28; 16:6-7; 18:9; 20:23. Note well that the Holy Spirit spoke in complete sentences!

It’s important to note when the revelation occurred: while they were “worshipping the Lord and fasting”! There is a special sensitivity and openness during such times. Fasting opens our spiritual ears to discern God’s voice. The gentle words of the Spirit are more readily heard during times of fasting. During times of fasting God often grants insights and understanding into his will and purpose, or perhaps new applications of his Word to our lives.

Their fasting became the occasion for the Spirit’s guidance to be communicated to them. Don’t miss the obvious causal link that Luke draws. It was while or when they were ministering to the Lord and fasting that the Holy Spirit spoke. Indeed, it would not be too much to say it was because they ministered to the Lord and fasted that He spoke. I’m not suggesting that fasting puts God in our debt, as if it compels him to respond to us. But God doespromise to be found by those who diligently seek him with their whole heart (Jer. 29:12-13). People who are merely “open” to God rarely find him. God postures himself to be found by those who whole-heartedly seek him, and fasting is a single-minded pursuit to know, hear, and experience God.

  

(12) They had a heart for the nations. They were a missions-minded church (Acts 13:3).

Here we see Saul (Paul) and Barnabas, together with leaders of the church in Antioch, seeking direction from the Lord as to where they should go as a church, in terms of ministry. Their desperation to hear God’s voice and follow God’s will could find no more appropriate expression than through bodily denial. As they turned away from physical dependence on food they cast themselves in spiritual dependence on God. “Yes, Lord, we love food. We thank you for it. We enjoy it as you want us to. But now, O Lord, there is something before us more important than filling our mouths and quenching our thirst. Where would you have us go? Whom shall we send? How shall it be financed? Lord, we hunger to know your will. Lord, we thirst for your direction. Feed us O God!”

 What God said to them in the course of their fasting changed history. This revelatory word was spoken in a moment of spiritual hunger for God’s voice to fill the void left by mere human wisdom. The results, both immediate and long-term, are stunning, for prior to this incident the church had progressed little, if at all, beyond the eastern seacoast of the Mediterranean.  

Paul had as yet taken no missionary journeys westward to Asia Minor, Greece, Rome, or Spain. Neither had he written any of his epistles. All his letters were the result of the missionary journeys he was to take and the churches he was to plant. This occasion of prayer and fasting, it would seem, “resulted in a missions movement that would catapult Christianity from obscurity into being the dominant religion of the Roman Empire within two and a half centuries, and would yield 1.3 billion adherents of the Christian religion today, with a Christian witness in virtually every country of the world. And thirteen out of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament (Paul’s letters) were a result of the ministry that was launched in this historic moment of prayer and fasting” (John Piper, A Hunger for God, 107).

  

 

Diversity, Unity Characterize Formation of Antioch Network March 4, 2008 

Texas – March 4, 2008 – – Representing diverse denominational and racial backgrounds, 42 senior pastors, 7 staff ministers and 1 layperson gathered for a two day season of prayer and reflection concerning the formation of the Antioch Network of Churches. The group gathered at the invitation of area pastor, Dwight McKissic, Sr. of Arlington’s Cornerstone Baptist Church. 

Several presentations were made during the meeting to help guide the conversation about forming the network, which McKissic characterized as a “vehicle to help mobilize and resource churches to fulfill the Great Commission.” 

Evangelical theologian and prolific author, Sam Storms, opened the meeting with an exposition of the biblical pattern for church planting found in the New Testament Book of Acts. Listing twelve descriptive components of the church in Antioch, Storms articulated the biblical rationale for intentional efforts to network churches in collaborative efforts to reach the nations. 

Oklahoma pastor, Wade Burleson, moderated a lengthy discussion about the parameters of doctrinal fellowship that will characterize the Antioch Network.  Recognizing the need for simplicity and clarity in a confessional framework, Burleson moved the meeting toward what he labeled a “consensus statement.” “A consensus doctrinal statement is needed to affirm our passion for Jesus Christ and the good news about His person and work,” Burleson noted. “Because we treasure church autonomy, we respect churches that go further in their doctrinal statements, but it unnecessary for a network of autonomous churches who desire to cooperate in ministry to expect conformity on tertiary doctrinal matters.” 

The group affirmed the following statement: 

“The Antioch Network of Churches will serve Jesus Christ by encouraging fellowship and ministry cooperation between churches of diverse denominational heritage and by affirming the autonomy of local churches to partner with like-minded believers as the Spirit leads. We are thankful for and intentional about retaining our preexisting identities, yet we do not suppose that those identities preclude our joint ministry with others who share our passion to proclaim the gospel.” 

Paul Littleton, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Sapulpa, OK, presented a paper on emerging church theory to familiarize the group with strategies and ministry philosophies of other church networks who are seeking to pursue the same goals of cooperative ministry. Citing the great need for racial reconciliation between churches, Littleton observed that few existing networks have experienced success in planting churches “whose DNA is multi-racial.” “As far as I know this would be among the first formal associations of churches that demonstrates the reconciling power of Christ from the outset. This isn’t a call to forsake our other associations.  Perhaps the foundation we lay today will lead our respective associations to awaken to the reconciling power of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Littleton noted. “If nothing else, may a world that increasingly lives at odds with people who are different, see a very real and powerful expression of the oneness that is ours in Christ. The power of that witness will speak more loudly of the beauty of Christ than a million tracts, dozens of media advertisements, or ten thousand sermons.” 

Ralph Emerson, pastor of Rising Star Baptist Church in Fort Worth, led the conversation about an organization structure and strategy for the network, which will aspire to share resources and nurture relationships among churches that result in planting churches committed to bold gospel proclamation and application. 

No formal organizational chart was adopted, though the group elected an exploratory leadership team to finalize the confessional framework and coordinate long range planning. The twelve member exploratory leadership team will be comprised of 6 African-Americans and 6 Anglos and will include men and women. The exploratory leadership team will meet in April to plan the future direction of the network. 

The rudimentary doctrinal statement drafted by the Antioch Network follows, though its final form will be presented by the leadership team at a later date. 

“We affirm the authority, sufficiency, reliability, and consistency of God’s infallible revelation in both the Words of Holy Scripture and the Person of Jesus Christ. 

We affirm that the one true God exists eternally in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that these, being one God, are equal in deity, power, and glory. We also affirm both the full humanity and deity of Jesus Christ. 

We affirm Christ’s virgin birth, His substitutionary death for sinners, His resurrection from the dead, His second coming, and His gift of eternal life to all who are in relationship with Him by grace through faith alone. 

We affirm that God has ordained the proclamation of the gospel message by His people in the power of the Holy Spirit, who is both the Gift of God to the church and the Giver of diverse spiritual gifts. We also affirm baptism as the public testimony for those who have come into covenant with Jesus Christ in Lord and Savior. 

We affirm that persons apart from a relationship with Christ will face God’s judgment.” 

The Antioch Network is also looking to explore relationships with the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention and the Global Connection Partnership Network. The Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention was established in 1897 by a freed slave, to help churches extend their Christian witness to the ends of the earth through education, health and ministry. The GCPN is a community of churches partnering with churches worldwide to reach all peoples for Christ. With a commitment to have “all things in common” Acts 2:44, they seek to share strategies, resources, people, knowledge and the responsibility of the Great Commission.    

For Information Contact:         Veronica Griffith817.468.0083 ext. 203

                                                   Email:  vgriffith@cbcarlington.org    

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