Singapore, an Antioch of Antiochs
by Rick Seaward, Apostolic Overseer, Victory Family Centre Singapore // February 8, 2018, 11:01 am
Photo: Simon Launay, Unsplash.com
Singapore: The Antioch of Asia. We hear the term thrown around a lot, ever since the word was given to the nation through Billy Graham in 1978, but what does “Antioch of Asia” really mean?
Let me start by giving you a quick historical background of the Antioch Church (Acts 13). It was started by laypeople and had a new model, a new structure. It surprised the Apostles when they heard about this church, who quickly sent out Paul and Barnabas to give guidance.
It became a church of great influence in Antioch. By the 4th century, the city was a central point for Christianity especially after the fall of Jerusalem.
Under Constantinople, Antioch was one of four major centres of Christianity. After the fall of Jerusalem, it became the main centre for the Eastern part of the world. In the ages of persecution, it furnished a very large quota of martyrs, with the bishops coming forward to set the example to be the first martyrs. Antioch produced great men who distinguished themselves in the service of Christianity in writing and many other ways.
The Antioch church that we read about in Acts 13 still exists today, all over the world. There are millions of believers in the world today, all descendants of the Antioch church.
BEYOND THE ANTIOCH CHURCH
I want to talk about the idea of an Antioch city or nation – not just an Antioch church. We see the Antioch church, which was in the city of Antioch. I believe there are two things to note here: Not only an Antioch church, but an Antioch city that went forth with the Gospel.
When we talk about that prophetic word of Singapore being an Antioch of Asia, we’re talking about a city-nation that has Antioch churches.
So what is an Antioch city-nation? Very simply, a city-nation with Antioch churches.
You cannot be an Antioch city-nation without Antioch churches. We cannot be an Antioch city-nation with only one Antioch church. In the day of Antioch there was only one church that grew very large, with only one church and one leader. But today we have many churches.
If we want to be true to the characteristics and essence of what we saw in Antioch, then it is the whole Church that moves forward as an Antioch church.
An Antioch city or nation is set up by God – predestined by Him – to impact other nations. It’s set up for His Kingdom purposes. I believe it is the destiny of one such city to affect other cities’ destinies. One nation impacting other nations.
Singapore’s Antioch churches must go forth, like the church of Antioch, to impact other people groups. The Antioch of Acts 13 affected its entire region.
I believe inherent in the understanding of the Antioch church of Acts 13, is that for Singapore to be an Antioch nation, the whole church must come together, decide their own individual mission callings, and also be united in the purpose of impacting another nation.
I believe Singapore has already moved forward in its call as an Antioch nation. LoveSingapore’s focus on Timor Leste is one example. We’ve moved from being individual Antioch churches working out of their own Antioch callings, to increasingly becoming an Antioch nation that’s rising up to impact other nations.
An Antioch nation is a nation of churches that are outward-looking and world-conscious. That’s what you see in Acts 13 – everyone was involved. So the whole Church needs to come together and get involved.
An Antioch nation is where a majority of the churches in the nation have to be moving with an Antioch calling. So the crux of the matter is really defining and understanding what an Antioch church is.
WHAT MAKES AN ANTIOCH CHURCH?
What is the core of an Antioch church? I’d like to say it is it’s nature. It’s a praying church like the church of Philadelphia. It’s a giving church like the church of Philippi. It’s an anchor church like the Church of Jerusalem. Each of those churches is known for their unique quality – but Antioch is all of those.
An Antioch church is a sending church. It is a church with a worldview.
And it is a sending church. It is a church with a worldview. They turned the known world upside-down for the Lord.
You see, I’m tired of hearing people say, “Oh we’re going to be an Antioch church.” We can determine right now if we are Antioch!
God has already declared prophetically that we are. Which means that if you would just do what the Antioch church did – you would be an Antioch church. The decision is in your hands.
What are the characteristics of Antioch?
- They were guided by the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit said send out your top men. Today we have a problem in some churches: When they don’t want a certain worker, they send him to missions. Do not send them to missions! If they can’t make it here – they won’t make it there.
- They were obedient.
They didn’t say, “Holy Spirit, wait! We need Paul for one more year – we need Barnabas for six more months!” They were immediately obedient. And they gave their best people.
- They gave their finance and support.
Pastors, I want to challenge you: Tithing your money – your offering – to missions is not enough for missions. Victory Family Centre, from the time it was founded, gives more than half its income to missions annually. And God has honoured and blessed the church and met our needs. Besides our missions pledges, we tithe 26% of our tithes and offerings to missions every month. I don’t say that to boast – I say that as a challenge. To prove to you, then when you give to God – and no matter how much you give to missions – He will take care of your church.
Paul became a tentmaker. Initially they went from town to town across islands and cities because the Antioch church was supporting that call that the Holy Spirit had birthed. They planted churches with their own DNA, they fulfilled this responsibility like a mother, and empowered those spiritual children.
SINGAPORE: AN ANTIOCH OF ANTIOCHS
What is the call of the Antioch church? I believe in God’s plan, every church in the world is supposed to be an Antioch church. When Jerusalem didn’t send out, He had to send persecution to get them out.
Every church is called to be an Antioch church. I believe God desires Antioch cities and nations. I don’t believe it’s just Singapore that’s supposed to be an Antioch.
But I believe that Singapore is supposed to be an Antioch of Antiochs.
We are called to challenge other cities and nations to be Antiochs. But to be able to do that, we have to be doing something above and beyond what is happening anywhere. And I believe that is what God is calling us to: To go to nations and plant churches. To suffer for the Lord. To mentor churches to be Antiochs.
To plant churches, that will plant churches, that will plant churches.
I believe that Singapore is supposed to be an Antioch of Antiochs. We are called to challenge other cities and nations to be Antiochs.
We know that the numbers of Singaporean who become long-term missionaries are falling. I don’t see it as negative. It’s a shift – it’s God’s shift. We are getting back to a New Testament-type church. If you study all the missions of Antioch, they were short-term: Moving in and out from place to place, trusting the Holy Spirit to guide the new ones – the newly-planted churches and new believers.
So let’s pick up the call: What is the challenge of the Antioch church? To be willing at any time to redirect our plans to where God is calling. Willing to focus on the world as a priority. Knowing that the more people and the more money we have, the more missionaries we’re obligated to send out.
Any church can do it, you just need to have a will.
This is what God wants for Singapore: Antioch churches all across this nation. Because we’re an Antioch nation.
This article was adapted from a sermon first preached at the LoveSingapore Pastors’ Prayer Summit in January 2018.