Making The Return Trip

Weekly Tip #5, Spring 2013

Making The Return Trip

It is always interesting when you read through a book of the Bible that you can sometimes observe some clear patterns and themes. As I’ve been reading the book of Acts, I have noticed a number of repeated, related actions as the book overall chronicles the early activities of the church in the New Testament. One will notice the movements, conversions, and evangelistic activities of the leaders like Peter, Stephen, Philip, Paul and Barnabas just to name a few.

Acts chronicles the three missionary trips that the apostle Paul took and I did notice a recurring strategic blueprint in the apostle Paul’s missionary journeys. Here are a few verses and you’ll see the pattern:

Acts 14:20-22, 27, 15:36
20 But when the disciples gathered about him (Paul just after being stoned), he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
27 And when they arrived (in Antioch) and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.
36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.”
Acts 15:40-41
40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Acts 16:40
40 So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.

The apostle Paul and the other disciples were people of action but they were also nurturing and encouraging to the believers and churches they had helped to establish. We see that Paul made return trips back to the believers to encourage, instruct, and strengthen the body. In fact, Paul wrote many letters to the churches to help give them direction, focus and theological grounding. Most of his letters eventually became a part of the New Testament, the Holy Scriptures.

Build Up Your Disciples, Multiply Your Ministry, Plan For The Future

As we look at the pattern of the early believers in Acts, God has called out many leaders (you) to make disciples by building them up, training them, and sending them out to reach our own communities first, and then reach out to the world (Matt. 28:19-20, Acts 1:8). That is what the apostle Paul did. What are some practical steps you can take now as a leader to your ministry, to prepare your disciples and ministry for the rest of this Spring term and look to the Fall term:

1. Help your disciples grow by selecting and teaching important Bible studies that lead to personal growth. Because your time each term is short, be careful to teach studies that are foundational and what your disciples need to know and master. Check out this tip for more information on this topic.
2. As you think about your summer and your fall term, begin the process now in selecting and challenging your next team of leaders for your ministry. This takes time, training, and wisdom. You don’t want to wait until April to begin to do this. Begin the process now.
3. Spend time with your disciples as a way of life. Let them also see your life. Have your devotionals together, talk about life and how to keep one’s eyes focused on God in the good times and the hard times. Be there for your disciples.
4. Finally, pray regularly for your disciples. Prayer may yield the greatest results in the lives of those around. Pray that your disciples would become the next fearless leaders in your ministry as they use their God-given gifts for His glory.