While they were ministering to the Lord—fasting, singing, teaching, witnessing, and praying—the Holy Spirit said, “Okay, hitch up the wagons, fellas . . . westward, ho! I need Barnabas and Paul for the work to which I have called them.”
Can you imagine how some would react today? “You can’t be serious. You’re gonna take two of the five chefs and send them to another joint? We’ll starve! You’re gonna reach down in our ranks and pull two of the best adult fellowship teachers we’ve got and move them to some distant mission field? That’s two-fifths of our leadership. We can’t let these guys slip through our fingers!”
But none of that occurred in Antioch. As soon as those folks realized it was the Spirit of God who was sending them on, they released them. And the change occurred (don’t miss this!) “while they were ministering.” It didn’t happen in a lull, when giving was way down, or during a period of leadership transition. God lifted these men from that exciting setting while the church was at its zenith, steaming ahead full-bore. People were coming by the cartload, deep needs were being met, souls were being saved, lives were being transformed, families were getting healthy, the place was electric! Still, the Spirit said, “It’s time for change.” Who would’ve ever imagined? But God is full of surprises, since He sees the big picture while we focus mainly on the here and now.
It was God’s way of telling Barnabas and Paul it was time to move. By the way, the Lord did the speaking. In those days the Lord revealed Himself in a number of ways. Today, I believe He speaks to us through His Word, through the gentle nudging of the Spirit, and through the collective witness of His people. Then it may have been in a night vision, or during a time while the disciples were praying, meditating on the Scriptures, or while fasting. A couple of the leaders sensed the Lord’s leading in a new direction. Others verified the voice. The Lord said, in effect, “I have work for two of you to do elsewhere. Not all of you, only two, and My plan is best. Release Barnabas and Paul. They are the two I’m calling elsewhere.”