Mission Philosophy from the book of Acts for today’s church

5 min readFeb 7, 2024

Caroline Cynthia

In the ever-evolving landscape of the contemporary world, the Church faces a myriad of challenges and opportunities. As believers seek guidance on navigating the present scenario, it becomes imperative to draw inspiration from the timeless wisdom embedded in the Book of Acts. Luke, the author, weaves a narrative that transcends geographical boundaries, tracing a movement orchestrated by the Holy Spirit. This movement unfolds from a Jerusalem-centric, Judaism-oriented inception under Peter’s leadership to a globally expansive, predominantly Gentile phenomenon led by the apostle Paul, culminating in Rome. This article explores the multifaceted components of Paul’s strategy, encompassing evangelization, discipleship, church organization, leadership development, and the formation of interconnected networks.

Core Pauline Strategy:

1. Paul helped establish the church at Antioch, and from that base, with a team of men, set out to do a specific work (Acts 13:1–3).

2. Paul’s work involved three primary stages: (Acts 13:1–14:26; other missionary journeys of Paul)- a. He evangelized strategic cities (Rom. 15:14–19): First Phase: “assault” to establish a beachhead of Christians (Acts 17:1–2,10–11,16–17); Second Phase: exposure of “life-on-life” for the purpose of penetrating society (Titus 2:5,8,10); b. He instructed the new believers (Acts 14:22); c. He organized these communities of believers into local churches that were: (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5) — self-governing (Acts 14:23; 20:17,28); self-supporting (1 Tim. 5:17); self-propagating (multiplying) (1 Thess. 1:6–8); d. He “passed the baton” to the elders of these local churches to continue the process (Acts 20:17–28).

3. He commanded the leaders he had trained (especially the “Timothy” types) to train others in the same manner he had trained them (2 Tim. 2:2).

4. He encouraged the churches to be of one mind in their striving together for the furtherance of the gospel (Phil. 1:5,7,27; 2:22; 4:3,15).

Four Components Shaping Leadership in the Early Church in Acts.

1. The Antioch Church. It was well taught by Paul and Barnabas (Acts 11:25–26; Acts 13:1–4). God marked out Barnabas and Paul to a work to which He called them, and the leaders of the church commended them to that work. They reported to the church all that God had done on the first missionary journey when they returned (Acts 14:25–28). Antioch became their base of operations. The church became the symbol of an entire tradition — Antioch tradition, which lasted the first four hundred years of Christianity.

2. Pauline teams. Paul and Barnabas formed the original team, along with John Mark. (Acts 13:1–4). Conflict arose in the team after the first missionary journey, just prior to the second journey (Acts 15:36–41). Paul assumed the leadership of the team and embarked on the second journey. He chose Timothy to be his young apprentice. (Acts 16:1–5). He gradually built a team that consisted of apprentice co-workers — Timothy and Titus; associates — Silas; and co-workers who seemed to fill out his team — over nine different names were used for co-workers and over 35 people mentioned.

Some were enabling co-workers — community leaders, the wealthy businessmen and women. One third of the co-workers mentioned were women. The core members of the team seemed to be gifted as described in Ephesian 4:11: apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers.

3. Elders and deacons. Paul quickly appointed elders in every church the basic process of evangelizing strategic cities, teaching the churches, and appointing leadership. Those elders were to shepherd the church and keep it on course (Acts 20:28). They needed to be strong themselves — good families, good character, and a solid knowledge of the teaching (1 Timothy 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9). Deacons were to assist them (1Timothy 3:8–13). They were to do the work their forerunners did in Acts 6:1–6 to serve the church. The elders were qualified on the basis of age, family, and character — not so much the gifts of Ephesians 4:11.

4. Church networks and partnerships. It is clear that the churches birthed and trained by Paul served as long-term partners with him.. A clear example is the church at Philippi. They were partners with him from the first day (Phil. 1:3–8), sent gifts (Phil. 4:10–12), and sent people to assist him in his ministry (Phil. 2:25–30).

Churches also had a sense of being a network. Paul circulated the letter from the Council at Jerusalem to the churches, showing an emerging sense of network. (Acts 16:4–5). Paul took up a collection from the churches for the Christians in Jerusalem, and several leaders from the churches accompanied him as the money was delivered (1 Corinthians 16:1–5). In this case, you can see him refer to the churches of Galatia collectively. And the networking can clearly be seen at the end of several of Paul’s letters when he addresses his co-workers in various locations and in various churches as sort of one big network of churches and co-workers.

These four components make up a significant part of the “way of Christ and His Apostles.” A strategic church was planted and became strong. A team was commended from that church to lead the expansion of the church. They spread the gospel and new churches emerged.

As we reflect on the components shaping leadership in the early Church — the role of foundational churches like Antioch, the formation of Pauline teams, the appointment of elders and deacons, and the establishment of church networks and partnerships — a clear path emerges for the Church today. It calls for a holistic engagement with society, emphasizing evangelization, discipleship, and community-building. The challenges faced by Paul and his team — persecutions, conflicts, and hardships — underscore the resilience required in the pursuit of God’s mission.

As the Church endeavors to be relevant in today’s world, it can draw inspiration from the enduring principles laid out in Acts. By adopting a strategic mindset that encompasses both local and global perspectives, fostering leadership development, and fostering collaborative networks, the Church can continue to fulfill its mission to spread the gospel and establish vibrant, self-sustaining communities. The Book of Acts, with its timeless insights, serves as a compass guiding the Church toward a future where the transformative power of the gospel remains central, bridging the gap between the ancient narrative and the challenges of the modern age.

(Ms. Caroline Cynthia is a church worker at Philadelphia Fellowship church Villivakkam, Chennai. She also works as an instructional designer creating different learning products in the IT and education space.)