Barnabas: Serving with a Team

August 3, 2022

Barnabas was an influential leader in the early church, but he didn’t serve alone. Barnabas served with a team. Nearly every reference to Barnabas includes him with at least one other person. This can be seen most clearly at the church in Antioch where Barnabas was sent to provide leadership after a small church was launched there. He first encouraged the believers. But right away he went to Tarsus to find Saul and brought him to Antioch. Together they worked to strengthen this church and built a team of leaders that eventually sent Barnabas and Saul on what would become the first missionary journey.  

1Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While 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.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off (Acts 13:1-3, NIV).

Barnabas served others by serving with others. He models how serving leaders build teams around them that help to carry out the vision and mission of the organization.

Serving with a team affirms diversity.

Barnabas knew he needed Saul; he also recognized that he needed the others on that team to help build this church. The team at Antioch was very diverse. There were different gifts, different races and nationalities and certainly different personalities. Each of these brought their own unique strengths and perspectives to the team.

Some leaders try to build teams of people just like them, people who will see from their perspective and not offer different views. But serving leaders recognize the strength that comes from diversity. They acknowledge that they will never be a well-rounded leader, but they can develop a well-rounded team. They affirm the different gifts and perspectives that others bring to their teams and deliberately seek to build teams around strengths.  

Serving with a team achieves direction.  

Together the team heard God’s direction and were able to begin the first intentional outward expansion of the church. Their decision would take the church to the entire known world. There was strength in the direction they took because they were not working alone. They discerned together and could then move together.

Many leaders find that it’s easier to make decisions alone and set the direction of the organization alone. It seems quicker and less complicated to set direction this way. But serving leaders acknowledge that a team provides greater wisdom.  Serving leaders work through teams to accomplish the mission of the organization. They recognize that they cannot do as well or as much alone. Their teams provide needed wisdom and perspective that help them make good decisions that align with God’s purpose for their existence. 

Serving with a team avoids disruption.  

Following this team decision, the two key leaders left the church but the church continued thriving! Not only were the gifts and callings of Barnabas and Saul released to the world, but the leaders that remained at Antioch were also raised up to new levels of authority and responsibility. This was only possible because they were working as a team.  Where there is no team when a leader is gone, the work often collapses. But serving leaders know that long term success only comes when they build teams that can carry on after their departure. They acknowledge that where there is no teamwork, there will be no ongoing work. So they choose to serve by building teams.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How does the way Barnabas served with a team challenge me as a leader? What action can I take this week to be more like him?
  • Reflect on your current team. How diverse is my team? Do we have all the perspectives and strengths that are currently needed? What strengths, if any, are missing from the team?  
  • Do I tend to make strategic decisions on my own or with my team? In what way does this impact my leadership? What can I do to strengthen the ability of my team to make wise decisions?
  • What would happen to my organization today if I was suddenly gone? Is my team equipped to carry on the vision without me? If not, what steps do I need to take to help them be ready?
  • Barnabas built a team that ultimately released him to a greater and higher calling. Am I preparing my team to release me? What might next steps look like for me?

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll look at how Barnabas served with worship.