I wonder how Paul would have seen, upon reflection, missional work.
First, the missional work of Paul and Barnabas, or better yet the missional work of God through Paul and Barnabas as agents of the earliest church in Syrian Antioch, is shaped by and accountable to the leadership — “disciples” — at Antioch. Paul and Barnabas are not on their own doing whatever they want. Antioch both sent and expected report from the two missionaries. Along with this is the importance of recognizing that missional work is not self-promotion; when someone gave Paul too much credit Paul went into hysterics. The work was not about him; it was about God.
Second, the missional work was laced up with persecution — everywhere they went they met opposition to the gospel work and they faced that persecution with courage and wisdom. Alongside this persecution is the courage and resilience and savvy of the missionaries.
Third, this missional work involved cosmic battle. The gospel confronts systemic evil and spiritual forces. Paul was learning from experience, no doubt.
Fourth, missional work from first to last is gospel declaration with Paul. In conjunction with that gospel declaration is compassion ministries but it can’t go without observation, especially in a day when many of us are arguing for a more robust gospel and more robust form of kingdom work, that Paul’s missional work begins with gospel declaration.
Finally, and this builds on the fourth point, Paul’s gospeling leads him to focus on churches instead of the community itself — he shows little concern with Pisidian Antioch or Iconium in and of themselves but with the churches as missional outposts in those communities. To be sure, Paul would have seen the churches as embodiments of gospel but the point deserves our attention. His focus is ecclesial, and Paul is intent on strengthening such ecclesial settings with leaders.