“The disciples were ﬁrst called Christians at Antioch.” (Acts 11:26)
The disciples at Antioch displayed substantially diﬀerent lives, so much so that they received a new descriptor that became the name for followers of Jesus Christ world-wide. What separated these believers from the moralistic religious adherents around them?
They believed and turned to the Lord (v. 21)
The grace of God was evident among them (v. 23)
They were true to the Lord with devoted hearts (v. 23)
They were evangelistic (v. 24)
They lived a life that was Christ-like, therefore the term “Christian” (v. 26)
The descriptors above are disciple-making goals. I believe one of the challenges that we face today in disciple making, and certainly with our work among college students, is that many — even in New England — are living Christianized lifestyles more than Christian lives as described above.
Christianized vs. Christian Lives
Fear vs. Faith: The Christians at Antioch did not keep to themselves but boldly exhibited and verbally shared the Gospel. They overcame fear of others and cultural rejection. Faith is the motivator for Christians, while fear is a common motivator for the Christianized.
Knowledge-based v. Life-based Discipleship: The Antioch Christians lived in such a way that the grace of God was evident among them, and their lives showed a true devotion to the Lord. Certainly knowledge is required for discipleship; in fact, knowledge of and belief in the Gospel is a prerequisite. But knowledge should result in faithful, devoted living. We are incomplete if we think knowledge is enough. As Scripture states, “Knowledge puﬀs up but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1). To put it even more bluntly, “Faith without works is dead” (Jam. 2:26).
Tension with the World v. Tension for the World: Believers experience tension with the world – the temptation to sin; the challenges of being diﬀerent, holding diﬀerent values and world views; and the reality of persecution. The Antioch Christians did not run from the world in isolation, rather they engaged the world evangelistically such that, “large numbers of people were added to the Lord” (v. 24). They focused on reaching people and growing in Jesus. They sent out the ﬁrst missionaries and church planters. Their desire was for the world to know Christ, not to avoid the world. Often, a Christianized lifestyle results in isolation from the world and disengagement with the mission of Jesus as individuals seek only self-growth. A Christian engages with the mission of Jesus and proclaims Him in the world. This relates to the #1 diﬀerence above: fear or faith. If we are living in fear, we usually disengage from the mission of Jesus, but in faith we will embrace the mission whole-heartedly.
There is some overlap between a Christianized and Christian lifestyle. Many of us feel these tensions as we seek Jesus. As we move forward across New England, may we make disciples who believe, repent, are true to the Lord and engage with the mission of Jesus and His church.
Andy Haynes serves as the Next Generation Co-Director of Collegiate Ministries at the Baptist Convention of New England.