Paul’s 1st Missionary Journey- Lystra

1_Pauls 1st Journey LystraScripture Reference: Acts 13:1-3 and Acts 14:8-20

Story Overview: The Holy Spirit directed the Antioch church to send Barnabas and Saul on a mission trip to teach people about Christ.  This trip is often referred to as “Paul’s First Missionary Journey”.   One of the stops on this journey was the city of Lystra where Paul healed a man who had not ever been able to walk.  A frenzied crowed first worships Paul and Barnabas as gods and then turns on them and stones Paul.  After the crowd left, Paul just got up.  After re-visiting some of the places they had been Paul and Barnabas returned to the Antioch church to tell them all of the things God had done.

Suggested Emphasis: We should think for ourselves and not just follow a group.

Memory Verse: “Don’t make friends with anyone who has a bad temper. You might turn out like them and get caught in a trap.”  Proverbs 22:24-25, CEV

Background Study Way to Introduce the Story The Story
Review Questions Craft and Activity Ideas Other Online Resources

Background Study:

Click here for an overview of the Book of Acts

Jewish Christians had originally crossed cultural and religious barriers when they travelled to Antioch with the purpose of sharing the Gospel with Gentiles who lived there.  The next step of faith for the Antioch Church  was instigated by the Holy Spirit who actually spoke to the Antioch Christians while they were fasting and praying (Acts 13:2-3).

The trip that Barnabas and Saul set out on is often referred to as “Paul’s First Missionary Journey”.  Today’s lesson deals with what happens in Lystra but the following background of the entire trip will help give context.

The Island of Cyprus:
(Acts 13:4-12) From Antioch Barnabas and Paul set sail from the port city of Seleucia and head for Cyprus.  Cyprus was Barnabas’ home (Acts 4:36).  The first stop on the island is the city of Salamis.  Barnabas’ cousin, John Mark joins them at this time as a helper (Acts 13:5).

The writer of Acts begins to refer to Saul as “Paul” (Acts 13:9).  “Saul” is his Hebrew name while “Paul” is his Roman name.

Sergius Paulus, the proconsul converted in Paphos, would have been a governor appointed by Rome to rule for one year.

O01_Paul_Lystra_Derbe_1024n to the Mainland of Asia Minor: 

  • Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:13-52): Paul robably landing at Attalia and then passing through Perga they arrive in Antioch in the district of Pisidia.  This Antioch is not to be confused with the Antioch in Syria where the journey began.  John Mark separated from Barnabas and Paul and Paul begins to take leadership of the journey during this time.Although many people in the synagogues believed, Jewish leaders eventually persecuted and then expelled Paul and Barnabas from the city.
  • Iconium (Acts 14:1-7)
    Iconium is now known as the modern-day city of Konya in the country of Turkey.  After preaching in the synagogues Paul and Barnabas found out about a plot against them and fled the area to travel 32 kilometres (20 miles) south-west to Lystra.

08_Paul_Lystra_Derbe_1024Today’s Lesson:  Lystra and Derbe (Acts 14:8-20)
Although it is good to mention the other stops above this lesson focusses on what happened in just one of the cities, Lystra.

  • Lystra:
    The man whom Paul healed might have been sitting by the street or in the market because there is no synagogue mentioned.  The crowd’s response to the healing sent them into a frenzy where they began worshipping Barnabas and Paul.  They called them Zeus and Hermes, the names of their gods.  Amazingly, a priest of the nearby temple to Zeus even provided worshippers with bulls and wreaths so he and everyone else could use them to make sacrifices.  According to the NIV Study Bible (Zondervan Corporation, 1985), an ancient legend told about Zeus and Hermes once visiting the area and having no one but an old couple recognise them.  Perhaps the priest and the crowd did not want to make that same mistake.What had started as a small crowd of people became a mob out of control.The speech Paul gave here would be further developed into the theme he used in addressing the Areopagus in Athens at Mars Hill.Either there were already Christians in Lystra or perhaps they had been converted because of Paul’s preaching because they gathered around Paul after he had been stoned and left for dead.  We will later learn that Timothy and his parents lived here (Acts 16:1) His mother and grandmother were believers so perhaps they were there.  Timothy could have been a young boy.  Whoever was there witnessed Paul getting up and going back into the city.
  • Derbe:
    The next day Paul and Barnabas went on another 93 kilometres (58 miles) southeast to Derbe where they preached about Jesus.  Many people became disciples.

10_Paul_Lystra_Derbe_1024The Trip Back Home (Acts 14:21-28):
After Derbe, instead of taking a shorter way home, Paul and Barnabas re-traced their steps and revisited Lystra, Iconium and Antioch of Pisidia on their way back to Antioch in Syria.  As they met with the Christians in these cities they encouraged them to remain true to the faith.  They also appointed elders in the churches).


12_Paul_Lystra_Derbe_1024Before sailing back home they passed through the regions of Pisidia and Pamphylia and stopped at the cities of Perga and Attalia preaching about Jesus as they went.

On arriving back in Antioch Paul and Barnabas gathered the church together and reported all that God had done.



Way to Introduce the Story:

Bring a deck of cards to class. Let the children help you build a “card house.” As the cards are stacked higher discuss the fact that each of the cards depends on each other. If one falls then they all fall. “Sometimes people are like cards. If one person does something—good or bad—then other people sometimes just follow along. They don’t even think about what they are doing. They just go along with the rest of the people. In today’s story a few people began doing bad things and then a few more until a whole crowd was doing something bad together.”

The Story:

The Antioch church was made up of Christians who loved God and wanted to tell people about Jesus.

Once, when they were praying and worshipping God they heard the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Hearing words from the Holy Spirit is the same as hearing from God (the Father) or Jesus (the Son).   God never changes but he sometimes shows different parts of himself.  Years before, in the Old Testament, people saw God as Jehovah or Father.  The apostles and many others saw God as his son, Jesus, when he lived and walked with them.  Now, in the early church, Christians knew God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

This is what the voice of the Holy Spirit said to those who were praying and worshipping God, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

Many people in other places had never heard about Jesus.  Now everyone knew that God had a special job for Barnabas and Saul to do.  They were going to be missionaries and travel to other places to tell others the good news about Jesus.

So, the Christians in the Antioch church prayed for Barnabas and Saul.  They even went without food (fasted) for a certain amount of time so that they could concentrate on this important work of God.  To show that they agreed with the Holy Spirit’s instructions they placed their hands on Barnabas and Saul and sent them off on their missionary journey.

After setting off from the port of Seleucia on a ship Barnabas and Saul sailed to the island of Cyprus to teach people.  Barnabas and his cousin, John Mark, joined them there as a helper.

In the city of Paphos a Roman Proconsul (like a mayor or governor) asked Barnabas and Saul to come and tell him about Jesus.  A magician named Elymas started saying bad things about Jesus.

Even though Saul warned him to stop Elymas kept interrupting.  Finally, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Saul made him blind.  The Proconsul was so amazed that he immediately knew that everything Saul was saying about Jesus was true.

Saul had two names.  Saul = His Jewish name.  Paul = His Roman name.  From this time onward Saul became known as Paul

From Cyprus Paul and Barnabas continued on to Antioch of Pisidia.  (This is a different Antioch from the place where they had started their missionary journey).  Barnabas’ cousin, John Mark, decided to leave them and go back to Jerusalem.

In Antioch of Pisidia Paul preached about Jesus in the synagogue.  Many people listened and began to believe that Jesus was the Son of God.  But some of the Jewish leaders did not believe this.  They were jealous that the people were listening to Paul and not to them.

So they made Paul and Barnabas leave their city.  The same thing happened in the next place they went, Iconium.  Some leaders in Iconium were so angry that they made a plan to mistreat them and stone them.

But Paul and Barnabas did not stop preaching about Jesus.  They went on to the city of Lystra and began telling about Jesus there.  A man who could not walk overheard what they were saying and began to have faith.

By the power of God Paul healed the man so that he could walk.  Everyone was amazed.

But some people didn’t understand that Paul and Barnabas were doing this through the power of God.  Instead of giving glory to God they began worshipping Paul and Barnabas like they were gods.  More and more people started worshipping Paul and Barnabas.  The crowd even called them the names of their gods, Hermes and Zeus.

Paul and Barnabas tried and tried to tell the people to stop calling them gods. There is only one God!  He made the world everything in it. Just because lots of people are saying something is true it doesn’t make it true.  An entire crowd can be wrong.  This crowd was wrong!

Some of the angry Jews from the other cities came and joined the crowd.  They started making people believe that Paul and Barnabas were bad.  So, first the crowd believed they were gods and then they believed they were bad!  They threw stones at Paul until they thought he was dead.  Then they drug him out of the city and left him there.

But there were some people who did not follow the crowd.  They believed what Paul had been saying about Jesus.  While they were gathered around Paul they realised Paul was not dead.  He got up and went back into the city.

The next day Paul and Barnabas began revisiting the places they had already been on this missionary journey.  They visited the churches and encouraged people to be leaders.

Finally it was time to sail back home to Antioch.  When they arrived in Antioch they gathered the church together to tell them everything that God had done through them on this First Missionary Journey.  They were glad to be home but they knew that there were still others who needed to hear about Jesus.  There would be other missionary journeys in the future.

Ways to Tell the Story:

This story can be told using a variety of methods.  Always remain true to the facts found in the Bible but help children connect to its meaning by using drama, visual aids, voice inflection, student interaction and/or emotion.
Click here for visual aids and story-telling methods.

Additional Visual Aids for this Story: 

  1. Crowd in Lystra_Slide Show to download
    (.pptx 12 MB file size)
  2. Crowd in Lystra_Slide Show to download- older format
    (.ppt 12 MB file size)
  3. Crowd in Lystra_Visual Aid- Visual Aid to download and print
    (.pdf 6 MB file size)

Review Questions:

  1. What is a miracle? event that cannot happen naturally only through God’s power
  2. In Lystra, what did the crowd do after Paul healed a man who couldn’t walk? They thought that he and Barnabas were gods and they wanted to make sacrifices to them.
  3. When the Jews said bad things about Paul in Lystra what did the crowd do? They stoned Paul and drug him out of town.
  4. After the crowd in Lystra stoned Paul and drug him out of town he was so beat up that they thought he was dead and left him. What happened next? Paul just got up and walked back to town.


Craft and Activity Ideas:

(How to choose the best learning activities for my teaching situation)


Other Online Resources:


A Crowd in Lystra

Download Slide Show

One Response to Paul’s 1st Missionary Journey- Lystra

  1. Debbie Ferguson says:

    In the USA, we have a game called Simon says. Commands are said to the group like, “Simon says clap your hands” or “Simon says hop on one foot” and the group follows directions. If a command is given without saying the words “Simon says”, the group should not follow the direction and any child who does perform the action is out of the game. The game could be adapted for this story. Perhaps Simon’s name could be changed to Paul or Barnabas. The actions could be appropriate to the story like “Paul says to shake your neighbor’s hand” or “Barnabas says tell a friend Jesus loves you”. Actions WITHOUT “Paul says” or “Barnabas says” could things like stomp your foot or make a frowny face.

Teachers learn from teachers! Share your ideas here.

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