Hoi christianoi—that’s what they were called. Somebody just dreamed up the name. No one knows for sure whether it was meant as a compliment or an insult.
The anonymous citizen of Antioch who first mouthed those syllables either meant to refer to believers as those annoying folks who behaved so much like Jesus that you could call them “Jesus people.” Or he or she meant to say, with a real sense of admiration, “Those are the folks who behave so much like Jesus that you understand Jesus better just by being around them.”
Whether it was said in contempt or as a compliment, I suggest that this was the moment when the church first confronted the challenge of “home missions.”
It happened in Antioch, the third-largest city in the Roman Empire, home of the first largely Gentile church, the one from which three of Paul’s missionary journeys were launched. The gospel grabbed such a hold on folks there that their neighbors began to call them “Christ’s people”: “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:26).
They not only accept Christ’s compassion, they share it.
It’s happening in cities across our continent today. People just like the members of that church in Antioch are so in love with the Christ who gave his life for them that they not only represent him in the world—they represent him to the world. They not only speak his words, they reenact them. They not only accept his compassion, they share it. They not only know his commission (Matt. 28:16-20), they obey it. And wherever that happens there are churches where folks are rightly labeled “Christ’s people.”
In a world where any distance can be traveled in hours and communication is almost instant with almost anyone almost anywhere, there are still places we call home. In those places, we are called to follow and act like Jesus, to be “Christ-people.” What a challenge! What a privilege! What a responsibility!
The agency we familiarly call Home Missions is not only designed for but devoted to making that happen. Read these pages to see how and where, and pray that God will not only bless the current efforts but future ones as well.
Pray that we will be so held by Jesus that others will want to be also. Pray that we, Christ’s people everywhere in North America, will so act and speak like him that those around us will take note not only that we have been with Jesus but that they are with Jesus when they are with us.
In April (16-18) the entire Christian Reformed denomination—pastors, parishioners, prayer coordinators, and denominational leaders and functionaries—are invited by the Korean Council, with the encouragement and assistance of Home Missions, to gather in Los Angeles to pray.
This will be a prayer summit sponsored by the Korean Council as a gift to the Christian Reformed Church (and ultimately a gift to God) in gratitude for the Christlike way our Korean brothers and sisters have been treated by the CRC.
It is a historic first. Never before have we all been invited to get on our knees together in one place. From all quarters of our denomination, we will gather to bow and ask God to make us truly “the Christ-people.” If you cannot join in person, you can join on your knees wherever you are, in many locations by simulcast, or even after the fact by watching portions of the event on DVD.
With the afterglow of Easter resurrection burning in our hearts and the anticipation of Pentecost power urging us on, we will together ask God to renew us and revive us. We will pray that God will make possible what happened so dramatically in Antioch—right where we live and worship and pray and learn and work. We will pray that what happened first in Antioch will be repeated across North America and around the world, wherever there is a believer who calls that place home.
Will you, with me, ask God to help us pray—both that we will be “the Christ-people” today and that God will graciously answer that prayer?
About the Author
Rev. Joel R. Boot is the executive director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.