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"NOW THEY WHICH WERE SCATTERED ABROAD UPON THE PERSECUTION that arose about Stephen traveled as far as...Antioch." (Ac.11:19)
THE ONLY TIME THAT TOTAL SCATTERATION HAPPENED TO THE CHURCH was when God brought down the hammer of persecution and scattered them because they did not divide and conquer. But it wasn't any time before they bunched up again and got together and co-operated up at Antioch and started the greatest missionary venture of their generation.
THEY HAD LEARNED THEIR LESSON AT JERUSALEM; they had holed up too long and had not gotten the job done. However, here at Antioch you find them sending out teams hither, thither and yon, but they didn't send out a team prematurely.
THEY SECURED THEIR BASIC BEACHHEADS FIRST before they did any further major invading. It says that Barnabas and Saul (or Paul) came to Antioch and "that a whole year they assembled themselves with the Church, and taught much people," (Ac.11:26) Paul spent a long time in Damascus (Ac.9:1-25) and in Jerusalem (Ac.9:26-30) and Antioch (Ac.11:26), the other home bases, before he was ready for the field and they were ready to do without him!
THEN WHEN THE TIME WAS RIGHT, "THE HOLY GHOST SAID, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them" "to bear My name (Jesus) before the Gentiles." (Ac.13:2 ; 9:15)
HOWEVER, ON SUCH A MAJOR MISSIONARY VENTURE AS THIS PAUL AND BARNABAS DIDN'T GO ALONE. The Scripture says, "they had also John to their minister", and farther on in the account it speaks of "Paul and his company" (Ac.13:5,13) to show there were several people besides those named--a major invasion force.
IN ANTIOCH "IT CAME TO PASS, THAT A WHOLE YEAR THEY ASSEMBLED THEMSELVES WITH THE CHURCH, and taught much people", and at Iconium "Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord". In Corinth, "he continued there a year and six months, teaching the Word of God", and also at Ephesus "disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus... by the space of two years". (Ac.11:26 ; 14:3 ; 18:11 ; 19:10)
JESUS, PAUL AND THE EARLY APOSTLES PUT THEIR MAJOR EMPHASIS ON BIG CITIES and had their greatest successes in the major centers of population like the ones named above, from which their converts there reached the surrounding territory themselves! As you can see by Acts 19:10, Paul spent only two years teaching in Ephesus, apparently without even leaving the school of Tyrannus, but the verse continues to say that "all Asia heard the Word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks." (Ac.19:10)
THE PROCEDURE THE APOSTLE PAUL PRACTICED, WHICH RESULTED IN THE EVANGELIZING OF ALL ASIA and most of Europe before his death, by means of his own single-handed effort and that of a few of his friends, was by training his converts to witness and carry on after he was gone.
DURING HIS FIRST PIONEERING MISSIONARY VENTURE (Ac.13-14), it says after winning many converts in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra that, instead of deciding to gain more territory, Paul and Barnabas "returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, (and) ordained elders in every church." (Ac.14:21-23)
THEN, "SOME DAYS AFTER," AT THE START OF HIS SECOND PIONEERING ENDEAVOR (Acts 15:40 ; 18:22), "Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the Word of the Lord, and see how they do." (Ac.15:36)
THEN AGAIN IT SAYS, "after he had spent some time there (in Antioch)" resting up for a third journey (Ac.18:23 ; 21:17), "he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all disciples." (Ac.18:23)
SO DON'T GET SO BUSY GAINING TERRITORY THAT YOU DON'T SECURELY CONSOLIDATE THESE GAINS! Do as Paul did: Establish the Churches, appointing elders in each, confirming them, instructing them, and training them until they can stand on their own. Then you can go off and leave them, as Paul did, and know they'll survive--by the power of His Spirit, in obedience to His commands, able to carry on where you've left off--indigenous, self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating! Or better still, we should say, Christ-supported, Christ-governed, and Christ-propagating.
EVEN AFTER PAUL WAS GONE from them and in prison (Ac.22-28) he had to keep writing letters to them to keep them straightened out--just as we have.
PAUL'S METHOD IS BEST SUMMED UP IN HIS COUNSEL TO TIMOTHY: "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." (2Tim. 2:2)
I AM ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED THAT THE SMALL, MOBILE TEAM IS THE MOST EFFICIENT, the most effective, and the safest in most cases of operation. There may be a few exceptions, but our exceptions have proven the most vulnerable to attack. Both Jesus and Paul and others, with their very small, but very efficient and effective tiny bands of roving disciples, kept moving so they'd seldom get caught!
AT ANTIOCH, "THE JEWS... RAISED PERSECUTION AGAINST PAUL AND BARNABAS...But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came to Iconium... And it came to pass in Iconium... the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, against the brethren... (but) they were ware of it and fled unto Lystra and Derbe." (Ac.13:50 ; 14:6)
THESE SMALL, MOBILE TEAMS OF THE EARLY CHURCH SURVIVED and turned the world right side up with the Gospel and the System "upside down", (Ac.17:6), whereas their most giant Colonies, like Jerusalem, were almost totally wiped out or made completely ineffective by compromising with the System in order to survive and stay in one place and keep what they had.
THE METHOD OF JESUS AND THE APOSTLES WAS ALMOST ALWAYS INDIVIDUAL PERSONAL EVANGELISM on a small scale, depending on the effectiveness of a thorough personal witness and intensive individual training to multiply the number of converts by making everyone a soul winner, and not all in the same place.
MOST OF CHRIST'S SO-CALLED SERMONS WERE REALLY TEACHING LESSONS to one or two individuals or very small groups of true disciples or true seekers, seldom to crowds. When he taught the Sermon on the Mount, it says, "he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him." (Mat.5:1)
"Philippi,... the chief city of... Macedonia... on the Sabbath we went out of the city by a river side... and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither." And in Athens, Paul "disputed ... in the synagogue with the Jews and with devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him." (Ac.16:13 ; 17:17)
THE ONLY LARGE CROWDS THEY HAD WERE NOT PLANNED MEETINGS. They just happened beyond their control, and they usually tried to escape them, such as what happened to Paul in Athens after he had attracted quite a bit of notice with his message: "Then certain philosophers... took him, and brought him unto Areopagus (like being brought to a big television talk show today), saying, May we know this new doctrine whereof thou speakest?" (Ac.17:18,19) He gave them the message, but as soon as he was through, it says, "Paul departed from among them" (Ac.17:33), and it's not recorded that he ever went back.
BIG CROWDS ARE DANGEROUS, SINCE FEW CAN HANDLE THEM and they arouse jealous enemies and show where you are. The big crowds only come for the miracles, loaves and fishes, and you can't teach them anything.
THEY LEAVE AS SOON AS THE GOING GETS ROUGH AND THE DOCTRINE HEAVY. Just as they did when Jesus gave his famous "eat My flesh and drink My blood" cannibal sermon; they said, "This is an hard saying; who can hear it?" And "From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him." (Jn.6:60,66) (Continued in part 4)