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The definition of a Pioneer: “One who goes before, as into the wilderness, preparing the way for others to follow; as, pioneers of civilization; pioneers of reform.” Today we are studying Paul and Barnabas as Pioneer Missionaries. They are just wrapping up their first missionary journey which took them one to two years and had them travel long distances by land and sea and get chased out of a number of prominent cities. They are returning to Antioch – their sending church, their partners in the gospel ministry who had commended them to this great work. We are going to see a glimpse into the First Christian Missionary Conference ever held.

This is an appropriate time for our church to consider this subject since we just mailed off a significant donation to Abraham and Grace Thomas – pioneering church planting ministries in southern India in the state of Kerala. Much of this area has been a Hindu stronghold. They were friends of ours from Grace Seminary who returned to India back in 1980 and have been faithfully discipling full-time workers, evangelizing various cities and planting churches in the area for over 30 years. They have lived by faith — not sent out by any denomination or mission agency. The Lord has provided for all of their needs. Now they have an orphanage for 11 boys from broken homes as well. Truly an amazing story of God’s grace and power in opening up doors for the gospel in India. They have over 60 full-time workers; 50/50 Project = supporting 50 workers with $50/month = enough for rental of their house. I don’t even know how many churches – over 20 on the island of Sri Lanka alone.

Some of you may have been involved in Pioneering efforts in other areas – cf. homeschooling for Karen. You know of the difficulties and challenges and the rewards and satisfaction.

Do you really know what it takes to be a pioneer missionary? Can be a lonely, discouraging effort – often you can go long periods without seeing any results



A. Nagging Naysayers

“But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium,”

Image of the Energizer Bunny – you can’t kill it

Paul had nine lives

They chased Paul from one city to the next – you would have thought they would have had something better to do – but Paul could understand their passion and zeal because he had been the leader in persecuting the Christians

Ritchie: Some Jews had walked 68 miles from Antioch and Iconium just to get a shot at him in Lystra.

Yet look at the heart that Paul had for his countrymen that they would be saved – Rom. 10:1

B. Fickle Followers

“and having won over the multitudes,”

From Throning to Stoning in short period of time

Mob mentality – people just don’t think for themselves

C. Painful Persecution

“they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.”

Not any type of legal proceeding and execution but a frenzied lynching mentality

In case of Stephen – he was stoned and actually killed

Didn’t carry his body out and dump it; they dragged him out – tore his body up

2 Cor. 11:25 “once I was stoned”

2 Cor. 4:9 “struck down, but not destroyed”

MacArthur: Matt. 5:17 namidsoe is used in terms of supposing something that is not true. Well Acts 16:27, Acts 17:29, Acts 21:29, verse Timothy 6:5, all those passages use it in the sense of supposing something that’s wrong.

D. Resurrection Resiliency

“But while the disciples stood around him, he arose and entered the city.”

“stood around him” – possibly praying for his recovery; prayer circle in CAA; where was Barnabas??

You can knock them down, but they get right back up

No Quit in them

Don’t Quit

“Success is failure turned inside out,

The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell how close you are,

It may be near when it seems so far.

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit,

It’s when things seem worse,

That you must not quit.”

Einstein quotes:

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

“I think and think for months and years. Ninety-nine times, the conclusion is false. The hundredth time I am right. “

More than just being patched up by a fight doctor – probably some type of supernatural healing took place

Motivation to enter back into the city?

– Finish the job

– Provide an example to encourage the other disciples – they still lived their

– Love for the unsaved

Barclay: The outstanding feature of this story is the sheer courage of Paul. When he came to his senses, his first act was to go right back into the city where he had been stoned. It was John Wesley’s advice, “Always look a mob in the face.” There could be no braver thing than Paul’s going straight back amongst those who had tried to murder him. A deed like that would have more effect than a hundred sermons. Men were bound to ask themselves where a man got the courage to act in such a way.


My former boss: nickname = the drill – tell the operations people what they need to do in terms of the fundamental and then keep hammering away so that they do it; you can never let up

A. Expanding to New Frontiers

“And the next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe.”

There is no pioneering work without leaving our comfort zone and going into new areas with the gospel message

Kent: Derbe was the home of Gaius who later became a companion of Paul (20:4).

B. Evangelizing the Territory

“And after they had preached the gospel to that city”

Did not show any favoritism; did not know in whose heart God was working; gave the command to repent and believe to everyone

C. Edifying the Young Believers to the Point of Effective Discipleship

“and had made many disciples,”

Never stopped at evangelism; always took the next steps to make disciples

No persecution mentioned in this location; Paul needed a break

D. Encouraging Maturity and Perseverance in the Faith

“they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith,”

Retracing their steps

Danger of returning to places where they had been persecuted and run out

Souls need strengthening

Souls need encouraging in the faith

How is this best accomplished?

E. Enlightening Converts Regarding the Reality of Suffering

“and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.’”

Why do you think this ministry effort is going to be painless?

Honest with them about the nature of Christian ministry

But setting before them the glories of the hope of the kingdom of God

1 Pet. 5:8-10 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Constable: The “kingdom of God” evidently refers to the messianic kingdom. Entrance into it was still future for these disciples when the missionaries gave them this exhortation. Though Christians will not go through the Tribulation, we will experience tribulation before we enter the Millennium (2 Tim. 3:12).

F. Effecting Plurality of Elder Church Shepherding

“And when they had appointed elders for them in every church,”

Consistent pattern in the newly formed NT churches – don’t see any other form of church government; would have been easy to just appoint a Senior Pastor; they could have established some type of democratic system or congregational vote system; could have rolled up the administration of all the churches into some type of organized hierarchy with a single bishop at the top

Constable: I favor the view that Paul and Barnabas made the selections. The apostles had earlier appointed elders in the Jerusalem church (11:30). [rather than by congregational vote]

G. Exemplifying Spiritual Disciplines

“having prayed with fasting,”

Importance of Prayer and Fasting

Not some quick prayer that they shot off; extended time of prayer

H. Entrusting Them to the Lord

“they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”

Difficult for parents to let go and trust God

Focus of the faith of the disciples was not on the ones doing the work of discipling


A. (:24-25) Running the Race to Completion – Touching All the Bases

“And they passed through Pisidia and came into Pamphylia. And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia;”

Characteristic activity = speaking the Word

Attalia = port to sail over to Antioch

B. (:26) Returning to Home Base – Reconnecting with Missionary Partners

“and from there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished.”

Ideal situation to be sent out and commended to the work

– Was Luther commended by the Catholic church (unbelievers you say)

– How about those who believed in believer baptism ??

Works of reformation are not going to find favorable commendation from traditionalists

C. (:27) Reporting Missionary Results — Giving God the Glory

“And when they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.”

The grace and power had come from God; the glory must be returned to Him alone

Communication from missionaries is crucial – they had a lot of stories to tell. They didn’t have the advantage of slides shows or video clips or Powerpoint presentations, but they were very effective at using words to paint pictures.

Significant distinctive of their pioneering efforts: God opening a door of faith to the Gentiles

– Something new and distinctive with long term effects

Kent: Everything was explained, including no doubt how God had supplied their needs, directed them where to go, and protected them in spite of many dangers.

D. (:28) Recharging Spiritual Batteries – Ministry of Mutual Encouragement

“And they spent a long time with the disciples.”

Had been gone for over a year; probably spent at least a year back at home base

Notice that their approach to recharging their spiritual batteries was not to isolate themselves for long periods of time (yes, we all need time alone with the Lord each day), but they benefitted from the mutual encouragement ministry of being with the disciples. They could both be a blessing to others and receive a blessing from them.

Steven Cole: You can’t give out more than you take in or you will run dry. I need time off each week and every year to recharge. I need adequate time to read and think and pray, or I begin to feel drained. Each of us is wired differently, but you need to know yourself and watch yourself so that you don’t burn out. Schedule time each week and each year for renewal in body and soul.

Kent: In all likelihood it was during this period that Paul wrote the Epistle to the Galatians.


Our Missionary Conference today at Solid Rock Community Church does not have the advantage of returning missionaries to personally bring us a report from the field. But as we continue to pray for Abraham and the work in India we can truly partner with ones who are performing that pioneering work of bringing the gospel to areas that desperately need it. Hopefully we can appreciate the tenacity of such pioneering missionaries and apply these principles to our own areas of ministry:

– Stay on course to the ministry vision despite opposition and obstacles

– Stress the fundamentals and don’t get diverted to sideline issues

– Share the vision and give God the glory for all He accomplishes