Updated: May 11, 2020
How does the Holy Spirit guide and lead people to start a new ministry or church-planting or evangelistic ministry ?
Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were ministering to 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, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus. Acts 13:1-4
1. The leaders of the local church – “prophets and teachers” (13:1) , in other words elders (Titus 1:5-7; 1 Timothy 3; Acts 14:23; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Acts 20:17, 28), teachers, leaders were gathered together -(Acts 13:1)- So we see even the apostle Paul and Barnabas first learned submission under authority in a local church. In fact, they were part of the leadership teaching team here in Acts 13:1-4. I Timothy 3, and Titus chapter 1 says that the elders or overseers must be “able to teach”, so we take Acts 13 as the model for showing the teaching authority as the elders, overseers and pastors, which other Scriptures teach – Ephesians 4:11-12, Acts 20, I Peter 5:1-5
The different leaders of the church are named and there is a nice ethnic diversity here. Darrell Bock comments, “God is gifting the church without ethnic distinctions.” (page 439, Commentary on Acts. Baker, 2007)
2. It was a church. (verse 1) Greek: “ek-klessia” “ones who are called out” from the world to Christ.
3. It was a specific local church. “at Antioch” (verse 1)
4. Prophets and teachers were there as the leadership. (verse 1) The Pastoral Epistles, 1-2 Timothy and Titus, written a little later, show that it is the elders-overseers job to shepherd and teach and lead. I Timothy 3, Titus 1, elders are to be able to teach; so the teachers in Acts 13 are assumed to be elders and shepherds, and pastors, according to I Timothy 3 and Titus 1, Acts 20, and I Peter 5:1-7. Ephesians 4:11 teaches that the “pastor-teacher” or “shepherd-teacher” is one gifting combined.
Another juicy morsel from Darrell Bock’s commentary on Acts:
“God calls those among the most gifted out from the larger community. (Bruce 1990:294) These two men are an integral part of the community, having ministered there for at least a year. Those sent are qualified to plant new works on the basis of their previous contribution to the church. God’s leading takes place here in the context of worship and fasting.” (Darrell Bock, Acts, page 439)
5. It seems they worshipped God, prayed and fasted over a period of time. (verse 2) Not just one time, but for an extended period of time, several days or weeks even, possibly months. By the way, an excellent book on fasting is John Piper’s A Hunger for God