Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.) (Acts 11:26).

For all its warts and challenges, the church is still the body of Christ—the means that God has established for His kingdom to grow on earth. Renowned pastor and theologian John Stott wrote: “The church lies at the centre of the purpose of God. God’s purpose, conceived in a past eternity, being worked out in history, to be perfected in a future eternity, is not just to save isolated individuals and so perpetuate our loneliness, but rather to call out a people for himself to build his church.”

In Acts 11 we see the beauty of the church on full display. Having faced persecution for their faith in Jesus, some believers from Jerusalem left the city. Travelling far and wide, they proclaimed the good news to the Jews (Acts 11:19). Some, however, began to preach about Jesus to those who weren’t Jewish—they “began preaching to the Gentiles” and “a large number [of them] believed and turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:20-21).

People of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds were united in faith in Christ as they became part of the growing church at Antioch. Scripture reveals that “it was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26). The church was so healthy there that when Barnabas was sent to Antioch from Jerusalem to check on the fledging family of believers, he “was filled with joy” at what he witnessed (Acts 11:23).

Reading this account, we can’t miss the importance of the church. As the believers were taught together, shared fellowship together, and gave together (Acts 11:29), the “power of the Lord was with them” (Acts 11:21).

Yes, the church makes for spiritually healthy and ministry-motivated believers in Jesus. It’s at the centre of God’s great plan for all people!

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At the centre