Read Acts 11:19-30
God’s plan that the church touch the world for Christ has always included a “go and tell” element. And that go and tell element didn’t always end pretty. Stephen had boldly shared his faith . . . and he was stoned to death. (See Acts 7.) And Stephen’s death seemed to cause persecution to increase. Many from the mega-church in Jerusalem scattered because of the opposition. But they didn’t remain silent as you and I might predict. Instead, they told others about Christ as they traveled and settled in new areas.
Antioch was one of those areas. There, one of the most influential and most international churches of all time was born. But the church was not unique only in that regard. It also represented a “first” with regard to nomenclature. You see, “the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (v. 26b). They had previously been called “disciples” or followers of “the Way.” But in Antioch, the term “Christian” was coined . . . probably by those outside of the church. Literally, it means “Christ one.” Apparently the disciples had earned a reputation of orienting their lives around Christ. As a result, those without Christ used this term to describe them. Unfortunately, this word was not originally designed to be a compliment. In fact, John MacArthur describes it as a “term of derision.” In other words, Antioch style persecution included name-calling!
I didn’t sign up for martyrdom, threats, opposition, or for name-calling. Or did I? Was it maybe in the fine print of the contract? Paul indicates that it is part and parcel of what it means to be a sincere follower of Jesus . . . it is inherent to being a “Christian.” He put it like this: “. . . everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted . . .” (1 Tim. 3:12).
That truth is an important reality check as you attempt to invite others to church and as you seek to engage people in spiritual conversations today. Not every attempt will be pretty. Not everyone will embrace your offer. Not every conversation will be warm and welcoming. When you experience that, remember you are in good company . . . and keep plugging away.