touching the worldThe Paphos Paradigm of ministering to government officials is found at the beginning of Acts 13, and immediately the emphasis on the local church is made.  Five men are listed who were teaching in the Antioch church when two of them (Saul and Barnabas) are singled out for a new task.  Two important things are evident:

1)  The Holy Spirit called Saul and Barnabas – “While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2).  There was no strategy session, no committee meeting to express opinions and take a vote.  While this staff of teachers carried out their ministries of teaching and prophecy, the Spirit spoke and called out who He wanted to go on the missions trip.

The process of “the call to ministry” has long been a mysterious source of debate in the Church, but at the core of the issue is the working of the Holy Spirit – in the heart of the one called as well as in the church as a whole, who should observe, pray, affirm and commission the called one.  There’s something deeply inspiring about seeing someone who’s available to follow this spiritual leading and willingly submits themselves to the oversight and authority of the church who also seeks the Spirit’s leading.  This whole endeavor must be initiated and sustained by the Spirit of God.

2)  The church sent Saul and Barnabas – “Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:3).  The “they” in this verse was the Antioch church and it’s a pattern that we must follow today.  What a connection, an identification is in this verse.  The church is behind this effort because it is an extension of its ministry, just in a different location.  Saul and Barnabas aren’t leaving to independently set up their own autonomous work.  They are an extension of their church, still connected, supported and encouraged by them.  They will later return to Antioch to give a report of the trips and be accountable to the church’s leadership (Acts 14:26, 27).

Missions begins and ends with the local church; that’s the pattern in Acts.  Any ministry activity apart from the oversight of the church has no accountability or direction to prevent derailments like discouragement, lack of counsel or doctrinal error.  The partnership and support displayed between the First Church of Antioch and Saul and Barnabas is an indispensable example we must duplicate.

From there, the ministry on Cyprus took off, with the eventual opportunity to witness to the governor.  When Sergius Paulus came to faith in Acts 13:12, it was the result of the church carrying out the mandate to make disciples, not just two men on an independent gospel expedition.  Taking the good news to leaders and everyone else is a responsibility we all share in the church.

May we think of that the next time we see our representatives on TV or in the papers.  The onus is on us to care for them spiritually.