The earliest Christians followed a Jewish tradition of pausing to pray, preferably together, first thing in the morning, about mid morning, at noon, about mid afternoon, and in the evening. “Just a Note” posts are brief observations made from Scripture readings not related to a lectionary. If I have one to post, it normally appears about 9:00 in the morning, at “the hour of prayer.”
Acts 11:19-24 takes us back to the people who were dispersed from Jerusalem after the death of Stephen. Some of the Christians had gone to different communities, including Antioch, which would later become a center of Christian activity. When the apostles heard about groups of Christians in different places, apparently they would typically send someone to check on the well being of the congregation. What is especially interesting at this point is that they sent Barnabas, not one of the Twelve.
The congregation in Antioch was apparently healthy. He encouraged them and was glad to be with them. It was a good visit.
In some church traditions it is common for someone from a central headquarters to go visiting. Sadly, it seems to many that the visits only happen when there is trouble. Someone has been accused of wrongdoing. The congregation isn’t growing, but shrinking. The leaders have stopped communicating with the denomination. When this is the situation, the people in the local church don’t trust the visitors. It becomes an adversarial situation rather than a visit which brings joy and encouragement. This ought not to be.
The same problem can crop up when the pastor comes to visit people in the congregation. If it is not a habit within the local church culture, the visit is viewed with suspicion, as if something is wrong. May the Lord help us cultivate an atmosphere which welcomes visits and encouragement from our leaders in Christ. This attitude can be nothing but good.
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