Monday, June 01, 2015

Return on Investment

“What’s in it for me?” is a question asked in business.  What is the return on investment?  Although it may not be verbalized, people in the church often ask the same question.  Whenever we engage in ministry with the marginalized, step outside the doors of the church or offer help to the impoverished, or take off to some other part of the country or world to serve, someone is thinking, “What’s in it for us?”

One answer can be found in one of my favorite passages in the Book of Acts.  The church at Antioch is doing well. God is blessing.  People of varying ethnic and social backgrounds are responding to the Gospel, they are involved in spirited worship of God, and they are impacting their community.  In Acts 13, we read these words.

“Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul.  While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’  Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. “(NRSV)

The Spirit always seems to step in and shake things up when everything is going well.  Barnabas and Saul (Paul) were key leaders in the church.  They were making a difference in the community.  Suddenly, the Holy Spirit comes along and upsets things by calling these two men to a mission (and we are not even sure that they or the church knew exactly what that mission was!).

There are many amazing aspects to this account but one that speaks to us is that no one in the church seemed to object.  What was the church at Antioch going to get out of it?  Nothing.  They weren’t going to get any new church members and someone else would have to step in and fill the vacuum left by Barnabas and Saul.  

Although the church would not see immediate results of this action, what they did by setting aside these two leaders for mission made a difference for the Kingdom of God.  The Gospel would be taken into new geographic areas, Saul would emerge as the “apostle to the Gentiles,” and Barnabas would find new leaders to mentor.  The church at Antioch would hear reports of their work and would rejoice over the spread of the Gospel.  Did this make an impact in Antioch?  The impact was seeing how big God’s plan but how they could be part of it by blessing others.

Don’t miss a blessing.  When God opens the door, walk through.

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