In Acts Chapter 13:1-3 (NIV) it tells us:
‘Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.’
So, it was whilst the leaders of the early church in Antioch were worshipping and seeking God together that God the Holy Spirit suddenly spoke to them. He told them it was time to release from their number two specific men, Barnabas and Saul (Paul), and send them off to do the work that God had specifically called them to do. It really was a strategic and significant move that would in fact shape the whole of church history. It was through these two men, chosen of God, that the gospel of Jesus Christ was taken and spread throughout the then known world.
As a result of that small band of church leaders hearing and obeying God’s word – many thousands of people came to Christ and many vibrant churches were planted and established. In a very real sense it was through the obedience of these church leaders that we now have two thirds of the New Testament written by the Apostle Paul as a result of his three missionary journeys. But it all began that particular day when they took the time to worship and pray. They were serious about seeking God’s face together and God was serious in His response and His intention towards them.
No doubt as these two men were sent off to fulfil the ministry to which God had called them to, it would have left a huge hole in the work back in Antioch. Barnabas was a great teacher of God’s word; he was a fantastic encourager and had the reputation of being a selfless giver where the Kingdom of God was concerned. Saul (or Paul as we better know him) was full of enthusiasm and passion. No one grasped the Old Testament Jewish law like he did. Not only did he have a unique handle of the scriptures he had powerful prophetic edge too. The other thing was he had a really compelling testimony, if anyone had a story to tell it was Saul. And without question, each in their own right was seriously anointed and gifted men who would have been greatly missed.
However, to ‘set apart’ both of them at the same time was going to take great faith and obedience on behalf of those leaders because everyone knew it would leave a massive, massive gap. Yet what could the elders and leaders of the church do? The Holy Spirit had clearly spoken, they only had two options, either selfishly choose to ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit or, bite-the-bullet and do exactly as He told them to do. The leaders at Antioch were wise enough to know that obeying God always results in great dividends. It always produces unprecedented blessing.
But hey, can you imagine the catastrophic loss to the work of God and His church if they hadn’t released these two men at that particular time? Just think about it for a moment, there would have been no churches in Ephesus, Corinth, Philippi, Galatia, Colossi or Thessalonica amongst others. Furthermore, we wouldn’t have the lion’s share of the Epistles that make up two thirds of the New Testament scriptures. So we really can thank God for those early church leaders and the way they unquestionably obeyed the leading of the Holy Spirit.
In a similar vein we at New Springs now find ourselves in a situation very much akin to what happened in Acts Chapter 13. As the leaders of the church in Antioch were instructed to set apart Barnabus and Paul for the work which God had called them to, so the leaders of New Springs City Church have been instructed to set apart Pastor Nathan, Jenny and baby Finley for the work to which God has called them. They have now moved to Sunderland in Tyne and Wear to establish a New Springs Church there. And just as Barnabus and Saul would have been greatly missed in Antioch so Nathan, Jenny and Fins will be greatly missed here in Loughborough.
They have served us with distinction for many years. Of course, we would have dearly loved to see them stay in Loughborough, but the Holy Spirit has clearly spoken and we are all determined to follow His leading. Although it’s a sad move – it’s the right move! ‘Who knows why they have come to the Kingdom for such a time as this?’ And just like Barnabas and Saul’s move we believe sending Nathan and Jen to Sunderland is both strategic and significant.
We are proud of them, let’s pray for them. May the Kingdom of God see much growth through their ministry.
So in conclusion, above all, what the story of Acts 13 does teach us is the importance of waiting upon God and giving time where the Holy Spirit can speak significant things into our lives – strategic matters that will result in real Kingdom and Church growth.
Please remember us in your prayers. Life at New Springs continues and it’s all very exciting – it really is! Remember, the best years are still to come!