Church Leadership

Who was Lucius of Cyrene? Who was Simeon called Niger? What did church leadership look like and what should our focus be?
1Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2As 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.” 3Then after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off. Acts 13:1-3 CSB

A more in depth study of Acts 13-14 can be found in the post "Acts 13-14: the First Missionary Journey of Paul."

Barnabas is first mentioned in Acts 4; it is likely that he was part of the movement from the begining. This may be why he was named first. This means he was the "seasoned" believer when he was sent out with Paul. Barnabas is also one of the first people to stand up for Paul when he is converted.

Simeon, called Niger
Simeon is possibly the most "contraversial" of the leaders. Many have latched on to the fact that he was called Niger, which means "black" in Latin[2] and began to use this to infer that he was a black man. This is a faulty premise. Based on many other scriptures in the Bible about the Israelites, I am inclined to believe Simeon was a man of color, but I wouldn't use his nickname to assert anything about his race or complexion. We have to remember that the social construct of race didn't exist yet in Simeon's day, so "black people" wasn't a common phrase or discription. In some translations, it may say "surnamed." The word translated to "called" is sometimes used to mean surname, which would make Simeon's name Simeon "Black." The name "Black" was often ascribed to blacksmiths. If Simeon was a blacksmith, not only would it make sense for his last name to be Black, but he might also often be covered in soot/ashes, prompting the nickname. Because of the broadness of the situation and the lack of discussion of Simeon anywhere else in the Bible, it is hard to make absolute conclusions on this matter. That is why, despite believing that he was a man of color, I would not use his last name/nickname to try to prove that.

Lucius of Cyrene
Cyrene was a major city in Lybia, in Northern Africa. Many Jews had settled there. Despite the notion that Christianity spread in Europe first, there was a strong Jewish presence in Africa and the oldest Christian nation in the world is Ethiopia (think back to Acts 8).[1] Due to the Jewish presence in Africa, there were already Africans who worshiped the Most High God, and some of these peole converted to Christianity when Jews like Lucius revealed the gospel to them.

Some translations say he was friends with the king (Herod the tetrarch) while others suggest the two were raised together.Likely, Manean came from a well off family if he was raised in close proximity to the king, which shows economic/power diversity in the group. This information shows us that Manean could have easily made himself favorable in the eyes of the crown. The fact that Manean chose to not only become a Christian, but to be a leader in the movement, speaks volumes to his heart.

Paul is the most famous of these men, though at the point in history being discuss, he would have been the baby in Christ. This may be why he was mentioned last. This is a reminder that we all have to start somewhere.
Leader Mission
Barnabas Spread the Gospel to Gentiles (External Ministry)
Simeon called Niger Continue in Antioch (Internal Ministry)
Lucius of Cyrene Continue in Antioch (Internal Ministry)
Manean Continue in Antioch (Internal Ministry)
Saul/Paul Spread the Gospel to Gentiles (External Ministry)
Split in Half
God split the leaders almost exaclty in half and called each group to a specific mission. One group was to spread the gospel to the Gentiles—people the Jews did not normally deal with. The other group was left in Antioch to continue growing the Church and building disciples. Our Church today should mirror this structure. There should be leadership in place to push for the growth and discipleship for new believers as well as to go out and spread the Word to those who have yet to believe or have never heard it. We have the responsibility of hearlding God's Kingdom and "passing out invitationss" to join this kingdom, but we also have a responsibility to mentor and disciple those who make that decision. As such we need both internal ministry and external ministry.

Paul's Journey
Much of the chapter is based on Paul's journey to spread the Word. The in depth study of the book goes into more detail about this topic. What I can say, however, is that despite being called to teach the Gentiles, Paul never approciates Africa or Asia with gospel. I think this is because "Gentile" doesn't actually refer to anyone that isn't Jewish. The Israelites refer to plenty of non-Jewish tribes they come into contact with. Only those from the tribe of Japheth are referred to as "Gentiles" (see Genesis 6 for even more proof of this link). Nonetheless, the book of Acts covers three journeys Paul completes to spread the Word (Acts 13-14, Acts 15:36–18:22, and Acts 18:23—21:14).

In depth studies on the rest of Paul's journey's will be added in the coming weeks.

References & Footnotes

  1. Brendan Pringle. "Ethiopia: The First Christian Nation?". International Business Times. March 4, 2013
  2. "Strong's G63526. Νίγερ". Blue Letter Bible; visited June 22, 2020

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