Gather around the table or cozy up on the couch and read this week’s part of The Big God Story.
All you’ll need is a Bible – you can use a physical copy, biblegateway.com, or the YouVersion app on your phone. Choose a translation that’s easy for kids to understand – the NIV is good, but the New International Reader’s Version (NIRV) is probably even better.
After you read, use the discussion questions as a guide to have a conversation.
To end your time together, pray a blessing over your child. (You can use the one below or make up your own!)
The Big God Story:
Last week, we heard about a man named Saul. What can you tell me about him? Invite your child to respond. Great thoughts. Saul, later known as Paul, started out arresting believers in Jesus and bringing them back to Jerusalem. Believers felt in danger in Jerusalem, so many of them moved to nearby cities where they kept telling people about Jesus.
That’s how one of the first churches outside of Jerusalem got started—in the city of Antioch. Open your Bible to Acts 11:20 and invite your child to follow along as you read. The Bible says that those who went to Antioch “began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:20-21). Greeks were Gentiles, or people not born Jewish.
Antioch was an important city. It was located on a main river near the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, so it was an important center of trade and business. It was also one of the biggest cities in the ancient world. Because so many people from different nations lived in Antioch, it was the perfect place for God to spread the good news of his love to lots of people!
Because so many believers were spreading the good news, outsiders gave them a name to set them apart: Christians. This means “little Christs” and describes people who believe in and follow Jesus Christ. Because there was such an excited, growing community of Christians in Antioch, the church in Jerusalem sent someone to help them. They sent a man named Barnabas.
When Barnabas arrived in Antioch, he was really excited! He saw large numbers of new believers – Jewish and Gentile. He saw their joy, their friendship, and their faith. Invite your child to follow along in verse 23. The Bible says that when Barnabas arrived, he “saw what the grace of God had done [and] he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts” (Acts 11:23). Barnabas decided to get Paul to help him. Barnabas walked northwest, all the way to Paul’s house in Tarsus to ask Paul to help him. Paul said yes and went back to Antioch with Barnabas. They stayed with the new church for a year teaching, spreading the good news, and serving the new church.
One day, a famine happened in Jerusalem. Remember, a famine is a time with very little food. The Bible says, “The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters…sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and [Paul]” (Acts 11:29–30). By doing this, the church in Antioch showed their concern for their fellow Christians. The Antioch Christians gave them food, clothing, and other things they needed. What are some things our church does to serve those in need? Invite your child to respond. What are some things our family has done to serve those in need? Invite your child to respond.
The Antioch church didn’t stop there. They wanted more and more people to know about Jesus, so they sent Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journeys to tell the good news to everyone who would listen. We’ll learn more about that in the weeks to come.
God wants everyone to know him. In this part of The Big God Story, the new believers who went to Antioch started one of the first churches outside Jerusalem, spread the good news of Jesus, preached to Gentiles, and helped other believers. The people in the Antioch church were loving and full of faith.
How else can we describe the Christians in Antioch? What other words might we use? Invite your child to respond. Great thoughts! They were hospitable, generous, joyful, and different, and they wanted people to know about God. I think one word that sums up all of these descriptions is “loving!”
The Bible says, “Everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). The first disciples were so loving and different that people created a name for them: Christians. They were different because they were filled with God’s Holy Spirit.
God wants to lead us to be his hands and feet in the world. He wants to work through us to serve others. He wants to fill us with his Holy Spirit so that other people will notice and desire to have what we have. God wants all people to know him. And he wants to use you to show his love to the world. If you’re willing, share a personal story of a time you shared Jesus with someone who didn’t know him.
– Why did people call the first believers Christians? (Acts 11:26)
– How did the first Christians love others? (Acts 11:29-30)
– Why does God want everyone to know him? (2 Peter 3:9)
– How do you think God might want to use you to show others his love?
Look your child in the eyes, say their name, and then speak this blessing to them: May you know that God loves you, that he’s always with you, and may you become all that he’s created you to be. May you love God with your whole heart for your whole life.