I had three short-term missionaries over for dinner so that I could learn about what happened in India during their most recent visit. One hears rumors of mass conversions there, on a scale unseen in our country since the American awakenings of 1725, 1792, 1830, 1857, 1882, and 1904.
I asked them if it was all true. They said, yes. I asked if it was true about the miraculous healings too. They said people were reporting various healings to them. (That's the way they put it.) I asked what the people were like. They said there was a lot of joy and intense praying going on, and that people were asking for prayer for everything under the sun-all their ailments, demon possession, etc.
We are a sending country. We send missionaries, we don't receive them. We teach, we don't get taught. That is as it should be, since we have studied the Bible for ages and have a history of Christianity.
But I am so excited to hear what God is doing abroad, even before we get there with our books! I was wondering if, under the circumstances, since the glory cloud seems to be hovering over places like India and Iran these days, we could go there not only to teach but to learn. I was wondering if we could consider a shift in spirit from knower to learner, to some degree. How enriching it might be to our theologies if we adopt such a humble posture.
In Acts 11, something along those lines happened. A persecution scattered the disciples from Jerusalem to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch. New believers in Cyprus and Cyrene went, in turn, to Antioch and did something no one had done before on any scale-they brought the words of this new life to Gentiles, not just Jews. Evidently, they did this without any formal teaching, or authorization. "A great many people were added to the Lord" (v.24).
When this development came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, they sent Barnabas to check it out. He saw that it was a genuine work of the Holy Spirit and did not try to take it over. Rather, "He exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose" (v.23). Then he contacted Saul and brought him over. Together "they met with the church and taught a great many people" (v.26). So Barnabas demonstrates both teaching and humility.
And we have a pretty good idea what Paul and Barnabas taught, too. For the content of that-for all their instructions on faith and righteousness and prayer and gifts and healings and the power of the Spirit-I refer you to the rest of Acts and the New Testament.