Staying On Mission: The Mile Markers That Keep Our Ministry On Mission

A message from
Senior Pastor Josh Laxton

Acts 13 & 14(NIV)


Acts 13(NIV)

1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

On Cyprus

4 The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.

6 They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, 7 who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. 9 Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 10 “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? 11 Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.”

Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.

In Pisidian Antioch

13 From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem. 14 From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.”

16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! 17 The God of the people of Israel chose our ancestors; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt; with mighty power he led them out of that country; 18 for about forty years he endured their conduct in the wilderness; 19 and he overthrew seven nations in Canaan, giving their land to his people as their inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years.

“After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. 21 Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. 22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

23 “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. 24 Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. 25 As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you suppose I am? I am not the one you are looking for. But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’

26 “Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. 27 The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. 28 Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.

32 “We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm:

“‘You are my son;
   today I have become your father.’

34 God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay. As God has said,

“‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’

35 So it is also stated elsewhere:

“‘You will not let your holy one see decay.’

36 “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. 37 But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.

38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. 40 Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you:

41 “‘Look, you scoffers,
   wonder and perish,
for I am going to do something in your days
   that you would never believe,
   even if someone told you.’”

42 As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. 43 When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.

44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him.

46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us:

“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
   that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.

49 The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. 50 But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51 So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Acts 14(NIV)

In Iconium

1 At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders. 4 The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. 5 There was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. 6 But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, 7 where they continued to preach the gospel.

In Lystra and Derbe

8 In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.

11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.

14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” 18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.

19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.

The Return to Antioch in Syria

21 They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. 23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. 24 After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, 25 and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.

26 From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 27 On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they stayed there a long time with the disciples.

Worship Focus

Digging Deeper

THIS WEEK'S Bible study


Empowered: Staying On Mission: The Mile Markers That Keep Our Ministry On Mission

Key Bible Verses

  • Acts 13 and 14

Sermon Quotes

From Pastor Josh Laxton

“Traveling on the road of God’s mission has mile markers that keep our ministry on mission.”

“Contextualization is communicating the truth of God’s Word into the heart language of people so that they may grasp who God is and what God has to say to them.” 

“What constitutes a healthy church? A group of believers who remain true to the faith.”


Paul and Barnabas had many Holy Spirit-led adventures on their first missionary journey. They traveled from Syrian Antioch to Cyprus (Salamis, Paphos) and Asia Minor (Perga, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Attalia) before returning to Syrian Antioch.  

Along the way, Paul and Barnabas boldly shared the Gospel. They went to synagogues and shared the Gospel with Jewish believers. (Acts 13:5; Acts 13:14; Acts 14:1) Many of the Jews rejected the Gospel and Paul then shared the Gospel with the Gentiles.  

In these two chapters, we see how Paul is filled with the Holy Spirit. In contrast, we learn about a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Elymas who worked for the proconsul Sergius. Paul doesn’t mince words when says to Elymas, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right way of the Lord?” Paul strikes Elymas blind for a time. In contrast, the proconsul Sergius' eyes were opened and he believed in the Gospel.  

Along the journey, Paul and Barnabas were enabled by God to perform other signs and wonders. One of these was in Acts 14:8-10, when Paul healed a lame man who had faith to be healed. 

While many accepted the Gospel message, opposition occurred. Among the Jews, jealous, God-fearing women of high standing and leading men in the city stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:50). Many wanted to mistreat Paul and Barnabas. Some Jews actually did stone Paul and leave him for dead outside the city of Lystra. Paul got up and went back into the city. 

Through all of these events and mile markers on this first missionary journey, we consistently see how Paul and Barnabas were faithful. They focused on sharing the Gospel and strengthening and encouraging the disciples to remain true to the faith (Acts 14:21-22). They stayed on mission. When Paul and Barnabas returned to Syrian Antioch, they were able to celebrate and give a report of God’s faithfulness and how He had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles.  

These chapters in Acts call us to be faithful and bold as we share our faith with others. We will need to take inventory to be sure that we keep our ministry focused and on mission for God. We will face opposition. As we are led by the Holy Spirit, we will experience joy, just as Paul and Barnabas did, which overrides the hurt and pain of persecution that we will suffer for the Gospel’s sake. We will reach people who are hungry for the Word of God, and as they receive and accept the Gospel they will be transformed by it. 


Main point: Traveling on the road of God’s mission has mile markers that keep our ministry on mission.

The Holy Spirit, if He is guiding the ministry, will keep it on track.  

These are the things that you will see along the way if the Holy Spirit is driving the ministry.


1) The ministry will send people out on mission. (Acts 13:2-4)

  • People will be trained and equipped to live on mission as they go.
  • The ministry will be intentional about sending people out. Examples are micro churches, short-term trips, long-term missionaries, international church planting.

2) The ministry will strategize to advance the Gospel (Acts 13:5, 9, 14; Acts 14:1, 8-10), contextualize to share the Gospel (Acts 13:16-41; Acts 14:15-17), and be ready for opposition to the Gospel. (Acts 13:8, 45, 50; Acts 14:2, 4-5, 9, 22)

  • Strategy to advance the Gospel.
  • Go to cities.
  • Go to synagogues (low-hanging fruit).
  • Change the name like Saul, a Hebrew name, to Paul, a Roman name.
  • Meet needs, see miracles.
  • Paul used business/tentmaking as a strategy to reach and fund.
  • Use non-traditional ministries like Community Arts Connection, LifeHope Childcare, 121 Hope etc.

Contextualization is communicating the truth of God’s Word using the heart language of people so that they may grasp who God is and what God has to say to them. The same message is used with a different means of sharing it.

Message to the Jews (Acts 13:16-41)

  • The story of Israel (history).
  • The use of Scripture they are familiar with.
  • The centrality of Jesus and the fulfillment of God’s promises.

Message to the Gentiles (Acts 14:15-17)

  • Immediately share why they are there: to bring the good news.
  • The good news of a victory, and that the war has been won, was sent with a messenger.

Message is the same

  • You are in trouble (bad news).
  • Jesus came to save you (good news).
  • Leave your dead gods and idols (turn from sin).
  • Receive the invitation to be saved by Jesus (become a part of His kingdom).

Opposition to the Gospel

  • The way people oppose others reveals a lot about the object of their faith. 
  • Cancel culture only exists when people have a weak faith and a weak mind.
  • Christians should oppose people with truth and grace. 
  • When we face opposition, we should not fall away. We don’t water down our faith. We don’t give up. We rejoice in our suffering for Jesus. We remember we are on the winning side. 

3) The ministry will attract people who are hungry for the Word of God and will see people receive and be transformed by the Gospel. (Acts 13:7, 42, 44, 48-49; Acts 14:1, 21)

  • We must preach the word.
  • We will see people hungry for the word come into God’s kingdom.
  • We must pray for God to draw people to Himself as they follow Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

4) The ministry will seek to establish healthy churches. (Acts 14:22-23)

  • A healthy church is one that is a group of believers led by godly leaders, who remain true to the faith and thus remain committed to one another. 
  • Faith in, confidence in, reliance on, and commitment to Jesus.

5) The ministry will consist of joy and celebration. (Acts 13:52; Acts 14:27)

Seeing these mile markers assures us that we are staying on mission.

Life Application

Consider the church at Antioch and how they called Paul and Barnabas to go out on mission for God and share the Gospel with others.  

This week pray and ask God where He is calling you. 

Think about your time, talents, and treasures and how they can be used for God’s kingdom work. Consider signing up for the next Serve Day or a short-term mission trip. Brush up on how you would share the Gospel with someone who might not know about King Jesus. Have your eyes open for opportunities where the Holy Spirit is leading you to take action. Make sure that you keep your ministry on mission for God. Share what you are experiencing with another believer who can be praying for you and encouraging you along your journey.  

Small Group Discussion Questions

  • What does the church of Antioch do in Acts chapters 13-14 that spreads the Gospel and makes sure that Paul and Barnabas stay on mission?
  • What is the role of the Holy Spirit in this missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas?
  • How does Paul and those with him advance the Gospel when they enter a new city?
  • What are some ways that you can share the Gospel with others in a relevant way so that they can grasp it?
  • What are some ways to experience joy and celebration like the disciples did in Acts 13:52 and Acts 14:27?

Daily Devotional Bible Passages

  • Monday- Sharing the Gospel-Matthew 28:19; John 3:16; Isaiah 12:4
  • Tuesday - Teaching the Gospel-Matthew 28:20; Colossians 3:16; Titus 2:7-8
  • Wednesday-Salvation Through the Gospel-Romans 1:16; Acts 4:12; John 14:6
  • Thursday -Opposition Because of the Gospel-2 Timothy 3:11-12; John 15:19-20; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
  • Friday - Preaching the Gospel-Matthew 9:37-38; Romans 10:12-15; 1 Peter 3:15


Lord, help us to be sensitive to the leading and calling of the Holy Spirit and to stay on mission as we serve You each day. Let us, like Paul and Barnabas, be ready to go when You tell us to go and share the Gospel faithfully. Give us confidence knowing that You bring success to our mission, as well as joy and celebration. Let us remember Northland’s mission statement which is: 

Northland Church exists to glorify God as we participate in His mission of redeeming a people from all peoples by engaging neighbors and nations to be fully alive in King Jesus through the power of the Spirit.

May we be dependent on You as we take each step of the journey You have set us on. Help us remember when we meet opposition that You are with us. Remind us to be strong in the Lord and His mighty power. Let us be always ready to effectively reach those who need to hear the message of the Gospel. 

Additional Resources

Sign up for the Northland Newsletter.

-Sign up for Local Serve Day on Saturday, June 3rd.

Sign up for Exploring The Faith.

Sign up for Foundations of Your Faith. 

About This Sermon Series


Upcoming Weekends

» May 27-28
EMPOWERED| Teach Through Living |
Executive Pastor to the Senior Pastor Derwin Anderson

» June 3-4
Senior Pastor Josh Laxton

Upcoming Worship Services

» May 27-28
EMPOWERED| Teach Through Living |
Executive Pastor to the Senior Pastor Derwin Anderson

» June 3-4
Senior Pastor Josh Laxton

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