Acts 14:24-28 (NIV)
After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. And they stayed there a long time with the disciples.
Paul and Barnabas had established full-fledged Churches in four cities of Galatia, including selecting and ordaining elders in each city. There were likely several congregations in each town, meeting in homes and public spaces. But all the Christians in each community were considered one Church, one body, working together to move God’s kingdom agenda forward by bringing more and more people to salvation.
Paul and Barnabas’ last stops in Galatia were the coastal towns of Perga and Attalia, where they preached before they sailed back to Syria to report on all that God had done through them.
When they arrived, they gathered the whole Church at Antioch together so that everyone could hear the report and rejoice. There had been at least four Churches started in Galatia, composed not only of Jewish believers, but of gentiles as well! This was unexpected news. The thought of most of the people was that the pair would go to the synagogues and show the Jewish men and women why they should trust in Jesus as the Messiah and Savior. Instead, these Christians, who were predominantly gentile themselves (Acts 11:20-24), rejoiced that God was throwing the doors of the kingdom even wider and bringing in more and more gentiles.
Several years are covered by the phrase “they stayed there a long time with the disciples” in verse 28. Paul and Barnabas were not missionaries in the modern sense who go and live with a people group for many years, often a lifetime. Instead, they were apostles. They would go, make disciples, organize them into a Church, establish leadership, and then move on, staying in touch with the Churches they had established, and sometimes returning for a visit to strengthen the disciples. And in between trips to strengthen the Churches and to open new works, they returned to their home base of Antioch to not only recharge, but to continue their service there.
Father, it is easy to overlook how important it is to have a solid home base from which we can go, and to which we can return to rest, recharge and serve until our next mission. This is as true for those of us who are called to serve primarily in a local area as it is for those who are called to go far away. Help me, Lord, to use the down time with my brothers and sisters more intentionally, to rest, restore, rearm, serve, and to be ready for whatever mission I am called to next. Amen.
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