When he arrived (Barnabas) and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. Acts 11:24-25
This is such an exciting time for the Church. “Church” is a brand new concept. This is the first time the word “Christian” is being used to describe disciples. We see two significant purposes happening together in the early church. The first is that in verse 24 we see that an extraordinary number of people were brought to the Lord. We see evangelism happening, not just one or two people, but a high number. The first Christians were not holding back from sharing their faith. They were going out boldly proclaiming the Word of God. They were not sitting back waiting for someone else better gifted in that area to share the Word with others. It challenges me to evaluate myself and my own thinking; am I evangelizing? Am I going out into the world and intentionally sharing who Christ is and what he has done for me? We are called to go into all the world and preach the Gospel (Good News) to all creation (Mark 16:15).
A second purpose we see happening in the Church is discipleship. Barnabas and Paul spent a year in Antioch, teaching great numbers of people. They were making sure the new Christians knew the truth about Jesus and his ministry. The new Christians were being spiritually fed. Many of us are deeply involved in ministry. We pour our hearts and time into others routinely. We need to remember that we need discipleship too. We need to meet regularly with other Christians, be in the Word, study and discuss the Word and be also fed. This short chapter reminds us that a healthy church needs both evangelism and discipleship.