by Rob Tims
When my mother was diagnosed with ALS 5 years ago, it only took a few months for her to consider whether or not the disease was genetic. Early signs pointed to “yes,” as her half-brother died of a similar neurological disease. The science on the relationship between genetics and ALS was questionable five years ago, so I never subjected myself to a test that might tell me something or nothing all at the same time. What would I do with that information, one way or the other?
But the entire experience (her diagnosis and eminent passing and all the experiences in between) has me thinking a lot about the ideas of legacy and heritage. My thoughts have run the gamut. Mind-bending philosophical questions such as, “What things have been passed on to me that I will never understand but impact me to a significant degree?” as well as more pragmatic ones such as, “Why did my mom decide my wife should have the fur coat and not her other daughter-in-law?”
Additionally, having served as an interim pastor these past 7 months, I will soon be passing the baton to the church’s next senior pastor. It’s been a fascinating experience choosing and teaching sermons with a view toward leaving behind as healthy a situation for the new pastor as I possibly could.
The experience calls to mind Acts 13:1-4. This passage describes the church in Antioch on the brink of passing on its heritage through the evangelistic ministry of Saul and Barnabas. It’s the description of the church leaders and the actions they take that tell us exactly what kinds of things the church at Antioch would pass on.
“In the church that was at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius the Cyrenian, Manaen, a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work I have called them to.’ Then after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off.”
I see three things healthy churches pass along to others.
- Notice the list of prophets and teachers in verse 1. A pious converted Jew (Paul), a black man likely from Africa (Simeon), and a Roman citizen of considerable social standing (Manaen), to name a few. The roots of the first churches exemplified diversity, as did those Paul, Barnabas, and others planted. Can we say the same of our churches today?
- The call to minister to others came in the midst of the church ministering to God (v. 2). I concur with Wayne Grudem: “Worship in the church is not merely a preparation for something else: it is in itself fulfilling the major purpose of the church with reference to its Lord.” And yet the church is also called to minister to others so that they may, in turn, minister to God. Devotion to God in worship is not mere preparation, but it does prepare. How has your devotion to God prepared you for whatever comes next?
- The calling of Saul and Barnabas was a call to duty … a call to service. They were not set apart to hold lofty, symbolic positions that set them above others and required little effort on their part. Rather, they were called to a duty in which at least one of them would lose his life for the cause. This is the spirit of service that the church in Antioch passed on to other churches. What degree of duty and service is your church passing on to others?
Diversity, devotion, and duty—three things healthy churches pass on to others. What kind of legacy are you and your church passing on?
 Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 867). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.
Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.