Coney Hill Baptist Church

Demonstrating God’s Love Together

Missionary Relationships

Acts 15:36 - 16:5

Intro:

Two years or so after returning to Antioch, a period during which they reported back to the Church in Jerusalem and helped plan a way forward in the gentile mission as a whole, Paul felt is was time to travel again.

He wanted, as we saw last week, to encourage again the communities that he had previously established. He was also wanting to communicate the message of the Jerusalem council. He also though wanted to go further in introducing the gospel to new places.  Paul was instinctively pioneering, never one to sit back, he was always asking; ‘What next?’

In these opening verses the emphasis is on people, who’s going and who’s not?  In any team the relationship between its members are key and the personalities revealed here are fascinating.  Besides Paul himself, and his previous companion Barnabas, 3 names are mentioned here particularly, and I want to look at each of them in turn.

 

John-Mark...

We mentioned a few weeks ago how a seemingly innocuous verse in the first journey would be revealed to be much more important later on.  John Mark left that first trip, we don’t know why, but here it’s called a desertion and, as a result, Paul isn’t keen on him coming along for a second time. A ‘sharp disagreement’ ensued between Barnabas and Paul, with Barnabas emerging as a passionate supporter of Mark, so much so that, in the end, he took him on a separate journey of his own.

How to disagree?  It’s never easy to conduct arguments with wisdom, things are often said and done rashly.  Barnabas seems to come out of this with more credit than Paul but, ultimately, the mission was furthered and everyone grew.

Mark became the writer of the 2nd gospel, a key leader and missionary in his own right, no doubt learning from his mistakes, the challenge, even the criticism, of others as well as the support of friends.

In time, not only were mark and Barnabas blessed and brought close, but Paul and Mark were too. (2 Tim 4:11 – ‘Bring Mark with you when you come, for I need him’)

 

Silas..

Without Barnabas, Paul needed a new principle companion and he chose Silas. 

Originally one of the representatives of the Jerusalem Church (15:26) that took the decision of the Council back to Antioch, Silas returned to the city, clearly having become close to Paul.

They spent the next 3 years together as trusted friends and companions, sharing joy and hardship alike, Silas is eventually given a writing credit in the New Testament books of Thessalonians and First Peter. 

And so Silas, serves as a link to the traditional base of the church, and a reminder that we can never go it alone.     

All of us need companionship on our journeys, people who perhaps take us back to the starting point, but people who we can rely on and trust in, Paul never journeyed alone..

 

Timothy...

And so the journey started and they quickly found themselves, once again, in Lystra.   There they found another young man, who was probably converted on the previous visit.  All spoke well of him and Paul wanted to take him as their companion for the rest of the trip.  Extraordinarily, he was circumcised and joined them.  Extraordinary because it marks a pretty big commitment on Timothy’s part, but also because it seems to contradict all that had just been agreed at Jerusalem, all that was represented in Silas’s presence..

Paul, was a pragmatic practitioner more than he was a dogmatic theologian. He did what was most effective.

As well as never travelling without a companion, Paul never made a journey without an apprentice, someone he was training.  He was a mentor...

 

Conc.

The ‘team’ at the end of the day then had a similar shape to that on the first journey. A senior apostle (Paul), a learning disciple (Barnabas/Silas) and a young apprentice John Mark/Timothy).

These days we might call that something like succession planning, but perhaps it represented a more basic commitment to ongoing discipleship, from youngest to oldest, experienced to novice, Jerusalem insider to foreign emergent, all had opportunity, and encouragement, to serve, and the training necessary to succeed.

Matt Sumerfield, leader of Urban Saints has an initiative he calls 1-2-3, find 1 person who can direct you, 2 people you can journey and share life with and 3 people you can mentor.  It’s a good model, and one that Paul would recognise.