#330 Barnabas: Serving with Worship

August 17, 2022

Serving leaders can learn many actions from Barnabas that can increase their leadership skill and capacity. We have already reflected on his generosity, his encouragement, and his work within a team. A closer look at his story reveals the source of these positive attributes.

 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).

What was Barnabas and this leadership team doing? Were they brainstorming about the future? Developing a five-year strategic plan? Setting SMART goals for the future? While these actions are all appropriate, this team was “worshipping the Lord and fasting…” The example of Barnabas shows how worship changes serving leaders.   

Worship serves by changing the heart.

This team of leaders gathered in worship. Their act of worship was an intentional shift of focus towards God. They focused their hearts and minds on God. They fasted from food as an act of denying themselves what their bodies craved. Their worship shifted the posture of their hearts away from themselves. Worship turned their focus from themselves to God.

Many leaders focus on the external actions of leadership and indeed many can be practiced without a change of heart.  But these actions will ultimately be self-serving unless there is an internal change of heart. Worship produces a change of the heart. Worship shifts the focus of the heart from self, our visions and plans and dreams, and turns our heart upward and outward. This heart change is revolutionary and prepares a serving leader to authentically serve others. It allows the leader to focus on a higher cause than selfish interest. Worship shapes the motives of our heart and forms character. Our hearts matter! Character matters! A heart change is required for the selflessness that serving leadership demands. True serving leadership begins with a heart changed by an encounter with God.

Worship serves by changing the head.

While this team worshipped, they heard the clear direction of the Holy Spirit. Without worship, they would likely have kept their minds focused on strengthening the existing church in Antioch. But in worship they experienced a shift of thinking and direction. Worship produces a change of thinking. Many leaders try to change their thinking to practice effective leadership. But serving leaders acknowledge that worship changes their thinking as needed.   

Worship serves by changing the hands.

After hearing the instruction of the Spirit, the group laid hands on Barnabas and Saul and sent them away. Consider the cost of this action. These two were the senior leaders in the church and now they were sent elsewhere! This was a totally new and unexpected course of action. Worship produces a change of actions. Serving leaders allow God to guide them in new directions as they worship. Hearts and heads that are changed result in changed actions in the hands. True serving leadership acts flow out of worship.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How does the worship of Barnabas challenge me as a leader? What action can I take this week to be more like him?
  • In what ways has my heart been changed by an encounter with God? What evidence of this have I seen in the past week? If it is not evident, what is missing in my leadership and what do I need to change?
  • Have I found ways to build times of worship into my leadership calendar? If so, are there ways these times can be strengthened intentionally? If not, what step can I take this week to change?
  • If I am leading persons who do not value worship as a leadership practice what can I do to lead well without causing unnecessary offense?              

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll examine how Barnabas served with availability.