July 5, 2022
If I asked you to name the top 10 leaders in the New Testament church, I doubt that Barnabas would be on the list. Yet, he served the church in amazing ways. He was the catalyst for Paul’s acceptance into the church. Barnabas helped establish the church where followers of Jesus were first called Christians and was on the first team sent into cross cultural missions. He was trusted with significant amounts of money and was a part of the Jerusalem council that provided equal footing for Gentile believers. He played a key role in the lives of two New Testament writers: Paul and Mark. In this series we’ll look at the ways Barnabas served the church and learn from his example.
We first hear about Barnabas soon after the church in Jerusalem was established. 36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:37, NIV)
At the first mention of his name, we find that his real name was Joseph, but he was already called Barnabas by the Apostles because of the way he encouraged others. While we don’t have a record of what Barnabas did prior to this first mention, there are subsequent actions that give us a glimpse of how Barnabas served with encouragement.
Barnabas encouraged by believing in the unaccepted.
Paul had been the chief persecutor of the church and was intent on killing and imprisoning those who followed Jesus. Even after a radical conversion, when Paul came to Jerusalem the church was afraid of him and would not accept him as a brother. (Read Acts 9:26-27). But Barnabas believed in Paul and leveraged his influence to bring him into the Jerusalem church. Imagine how Paul felt as he listened to Barnabas validate his calling! By believing in the unaccepted, Barnabas served the church by bringing in the greatest apostolic missionary of all time! Serving leaders encourage by believing in the unaccepted.
Barnabas encouraged by believing in the unproven.
Soon after the persecution of the church scattered the believers, a small group of Greeks came to faith in Antioch. These Greek believers had just come to faith in what was up to that time an almost exclusively Jewish movement. They were unknown and unproven. The Jerusalem church leaders sent their trusted encourager, Barnabas, to investigate the reports. He “was glad and encouraged them…” (Acts 11:23). Imagine how these believers felt to have a leader like Barnabas accept and encourage them. Barnabas spent a year there developing this fledgling group into the people first called Christians and from where the gospel would expand to the rest of the known world. By believing in the unproven believers in Antioch Barnabas served the church by building the team that would be the base for launching the gospel to the rest of the world. Serving leaders encourage by believing in the unproven.
Barnabas encouraged by believing in the unsuccessful.
Mark, a cousin of Barnabas, went with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, but Mark turned back. He quit! Later, when they were ready to go on their second journey Paul understandably didn’t want to take Mark along, but Barnabas believed that Mark should have a second chance. (Read Acts 15:37-39). Imagine how Mark felt as he listened to Barnabas argue that he deserved a second chance! By believing in the unsuccessful, Barnabas served the church by keeping alive the leadership capacity of the author of the book of Mark. Serving leaders encourage by believing in the unsuccessful.
Barnabas served by believing in people that others found it hard to believe in. And he shows serving leaders the power of that belief in others.
- What risks did Barnabas take by believing in Paul, Mark and the new Greek believers in Antioch? What motivated him to take these risks? What holds you back from believing in these kinds of people?
- Reflect on the way Barnabas believed in the unaccepted, the unproven and the unsuccessful. Did you ever fit into one of these categories? Was there someone, like Barnabas who believed in you and encouraged you? If so, what can you do to express your gratitude to them?
- Who in your life right now fits one of those categories (unaccepted, unproven, unsuccessful) and what action can you take to serve with encouragement like Barnabas?
- How does Barnabas’ encouragement challenge you as a leader? What action can you take this week to be more like him?
Until next time, yours on the journey,
In the next issue, we’ll examine how Barnabas served with generosity.