#338 Serving with Authority: Use It

November 23, 2022

Serving leaders don’t avoid authority, they use it to serve! They welcome authority as a way to build others up, move the organization in the direction it needs to go, etc. Paul, as we saw in the last issue, used authority to build others up. Now, let’s reflect on a short statement he made which is packed with leadership insights about authority.  

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1, NIV).

Paul boldly and unapologetically calls the believers at Corinth to follow his example! He is using his authority to spur them on in the direction they need to go. He is serving by using authority and his statement provides several insights into how serving leaders use authority.  

Using authority involves modeling.

“Follow my example, as I follow….” Paul makes it very clear that he is not asking others to do something that he is now willing to do. He is calling them to do what they have seen him doing. He models to his followers what he asks them to do. He models being under authority before exercising authority. He is a follower before he is a leader. Some leaders give directions but don’t model what they ask others to do. Serving leaders first show the way and then call others to follow. This compels serving leaders to first examine their own lives before they call others to follow. They recognize that they need to model the values, mission and purpose of the organization they lead before they can boldly ask others to follow. Where they fall short, they acknowledge their failure and seek to improve. Then, they are not ashamed to tell others, “Live and work like I do!” Serving leaders model the way before using their authority to ask others to follow. They serve others by modeling the way.

Using authority implies direction.

Paul, in these few words was clearly using his authority to providing direction to those who followed him.  “Follow my example…” He is not ashamed to set the standards of what he expects from his followers. As he does this, he brings focus and clarity to the direction he is calling people to go. Some leaders are reluctant to point others in a clear direction. They feel that serving others means moving only when everyone agrees. Leaders who seek consensus from everyone often cannot move forward. Serving leaders understand that their authority is given to them for the purpose of setting direction. They gladly seek input and counsel from their team but they do not hesitate to clearly articulate the direction needed. They serve the mission of the organization by clearly pointing out the direction which is needed.   

Using authority inspires action.

Leadership involves getting things done, using authority to help people move in the desired direction.  Paul’s instruction here is a clear call to action for the believers in Corinth. He sets the example with his own life. He points out the direction that movement is needed. As he serves with these leadership actions he inspires action from the followers.

Paul’s instruction here can be lost in the context of his showing an example, but he says “Follow” as a command, an instruction. It is a call to action, to movement in a direction.

Some leaders use their position to call people to action. They use the power of a paycheck or other incentives to help people act. But serving leaders use their authority to inspire others to act. As serving leaders model the way and clarify direction, they inspire action! Those who follow understand what is expected of them and they are motivated to move forward. A serving leader is in charge to charge others up! They serve by inspiring action from others.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How well do I model the purpose, values and mission of the organization I lead? How does this impact my ability to serve my team? Can I say with confidence, “Follow my example”?
  • How effectively do I use my authority to provide direction to those that I serve? Am I more inclined to lead only when there is consensus or to lead without consulting others? What can I do to strengthen the clarity of direction needed in my organization?
  • How well does my leadership inspire others to act? Are there ways that I use my leadership authority to force others to act rather than inspire them to act?                     

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll look at how serving leaders release authority.

#337 Serving with Authority: Accept It

November 9, 2022

Serving leaders respect the authority of those over them but they also accept the authority invested in them. They recognize and accept that every legitimate leadership role brings with it the authority to carry out the expectations of that role. Paul spoke clearly about his authority as an apostle.

 So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it (2 Corinthians 10:8, NIV).

Paul had a clear understanding of his authority and accepted it as a gift given to him by God to carry out the mission God had given to him. He helps serving leaders do the same.

Accepting authority acknowledges accountability.

 “the authority the Lord gave us…” Paul recognized that his authority came from God and therefore he was accountable to God for how he used this authority. What comes from God is good and should be used for His purposes. Many leaders, especially those who have been wounded in the past with abuse of authority or those who lead others who have been hurt in this way run away from authority and shrink back from exercising their authority. They are so concerned about misuse of authority that they miss using authority for its intended good.

Other leaders find it difficult to accept their authority because it seems like they are seeking power for themselves. But serving leaders recognize that all legitimate authority comes from God, and they are accountable to Him for how they use it. They also recognize that they are accountable to Him if they fail to use it! Serving leaders accept authority because they recognize that they are under authority.

Accepting authority allows focus. 

“the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down…”  Paul was clear about the focus of his authority, it was to build others up, not to destroy them. The focus of authority is to benefit those who are being served by the one in authority. Many leaders have used authority to tear people down or to build their own kingdoms.

But Paul makes it clear that our authority is focused on others. Authority is intended by God to be a blessing to others. Serving leaders accept that and use authority as it was intended. They refuse to accept prevailing distrust of authority as an excuse to fail to use their authority. They are committed to do all within their power and authority to build others up. That is serving leadership.

Accepting authority activates confidence.  

Paul accepted his authority, and it gave him confidence in his role. His confidence could be seen as pride to the extent that he boasted about it and said boldly, “I will not be ashamed of it.”  He begins and ends this verse declaring his confidence in his authority. But the rest of his statements make it clear that he is not simply drawing attention to his significant role in the church. Paul’s confidence is based on his understanding of where authority comes from and the purpose for which it is given. When these issues are settled confidence is not pride or arrogance, it is simply an appropriate acceptance of what is. All leaders need confidence to lead. Their confidence inspires others to follow. Serving leaders accept their authority and have confidence as they use it for its intended purposes. They inspire others to follow as they accept that their role gives them authority to serve.  

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How have past experiences with authority shaped my own view of my role? In what ways does the example of Paul encourage me to recognize and accept Godly authority?
  • Do I see my authority as operating under God’s ultimate authority? How is this expressed in my leadership?
  • Does my leadership most often build others up or tear them down? What examples can I give of how this has been demonstrated in the past week?
  • How confident am I as a leader? In what ways is this related to how I see my own authority? What do I need to change to have the confidence that Paul expressed?

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler In the next issue, we’ll examine how serving leaders use authority.

#336 Serving with Authority: Respect It

October 26, 2022

Serving leaders, like all leaders, have and use authority.  Authority is the legitimate power that gives them the right to act in their role as a leader. But many serving leaders may find the subject of authority a bit awkward.  Is authority good or bad? How does it fit with the concept of serving others? In this series we’ll examine how serving leaders view and use authority. First, a glimpse at the life of David reveals that serving leaders respect the authority of those above them. David was anointed to be king, but Saul was still on the throne and was chasing David and his men. Twice, David had an easy opportunity to kill Saul and take the kingdom. On one of these occasions, David cut off the corner of Saul’s robe.  

 5Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. 6He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” 7With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way (1 Samuel 24: 5-7, NIV).

David’s restraint shows remarkable respect for the authority of Saul even when Saul was seeking to kill him. David acknowledged that Saul was the king and respected his position even when he didn’t agree with the actions of the king. David’s response shows serving leaders the results of respect for those in authority over them.

Respect for authority builds character.  

This period was a very difficult time in David’s life as he was chased by king Saul. It was a time that his character was tested and shaped in powerful ways. Most significantly, David learned that before he should be in authority, he had to learn to be under authority. This is always a difficult lesson for leaders and much more difficult when the person in authority is not a good leader! But serving leaders respect the authority of those over them and allow God to shape their character as they show respect by their words and actions.  

Respect for authority builds trust

David acted with respect for authority because it was the right thing to do. But his followers were also watching. As they saw David’s respect for king Saul they grew in their trust of David. They observed that he was “conscience-stricken” after cutting Saul’s robe. They heard him describe his enemy as “the anointed of the Lord.” As they watched him closely, they recognized that David was a leader they could trust. Serving leaders build trust with those who follow as they respect the authority of those over them.

Respect for authority builds people.

David’s actions challenged and shaped those who followed him. Although they initially disagreed with his position David’s respect for king Saul helped them grow. David helped them grow them by rebuking them when their values did not align with his. As these men witnessed David’s loyalty to Saul, they also became extremely loyal to David. These men would go on to do extraordinary exploits for David.  They knew that because David had respect for authority, he would not misuse authority when he was in power. Serving leaders serve those who follow by respecting the authority of those above them. As they do so they build the people around them.   

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is my attitude towards those in authority over me? Am I able to respect them even when I don’t agree with their decisions? How does my attitude impact the way I lead?   
  • How do I talk about those in authority over me? What impact does this have on my leadership as those who follow listen to my comments?
  • How do I want those under my authority to view my leadership? Do I have this same view of those over me? How does this impact my ability to serve those under me?      

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll look at how serving leaders accept authority.

#335 Barnabas: Serving with Character

October 12, 2022

We have observed several of the actions that made Barnabas an effective serving leader. As we conclude this review of his life, we’ll look below the surface to observe where these actions were rooted. In one of the first mentions of his life we learn that he was a ‘good man.’

22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord (Acts 11:22-24, NIV).

Barnabas was a “good man,” the evidence of his character. His character was the foundation from which all the other wonderful characteristics of his life flowed. He shows all serving leaders that serving others begins with who we are.

Character serves by signaling who we are.  

Barnabas was “full of faith and the Spirit.” This was the core of who he was. His good character signaled what he was filled with. Some leaders try to manage what people see and work hard to shape their actions, hoping to cover up the reality of who they are inside. But when the pressure is on, what is inside comes out in a harsh word, an angry look or striving for power. Actions do not determine character, they reveal character. Serving leaders focus on filling themselves with the right content. They are careful about what they read, what they see, and what they think about. They recognize that their character signals to the world who they are.  

Character serves by shaping what we do.   

“…he was glad and encouraged them to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” When Barnabas arrived at the church in Antioch, he looked at what was happening and responded with encouragement. Why? He didn’t need to stop and think about what the best leadership response would be. He simply allowed his character to shape his response. He encouraged because he was an encourager. Great results followed, “A great number of people were brought to the Lord.” Some leaders carefully weigh potential losses or gains based on their actions and decide what to do based on how it will advance or hinder their own goals. But serving leaders cultivate good character and then allow that to shape what they do. They do what is right, not what is convenient. They do what is needed, not what is expedient. Their character helps them focus on long term gains instead of short-term wins. They can safely rely on their character to shape what they do.

Character serves by steering where we go.

Barnabas was sent by the church leaders to serve in Antioch. They recognized the goodness of his character and that opened doors for greater levels of responsibility for him. They trusted him because they knew his character. This trust lead to his next assignment. Some leaders seek advancement by carefully aligning themselves with the right people or calculating where they go based on their desired outcomes. But serving leaders cultivate character that opens doors for them and steers them in the right direction. Their character serves as the navigational tool that leads them where they can best serve.

The life of Barnabas is a case study of a man who served well because of who he was. He challenges all serving leaders to develop their character and allow their leadership to flow out of it.  

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How does the character of Barnabas challenge me as a leader? What action can I take this week to be more like him?
  • What am I filled with? How is this evidenced in who I am at the core of my life? What do I do to stay filled with that which produces good character in my life?   
  • What ultimately shapes my actions? Do I allow my character to shape what is right to do or do I focus on how others will react or how the decision will advance my own goals?
  • What guides my advancement? Is it my own efforts to plot a course that takes me where I want to go, or is it my character that opens doors to serve?
  • What am I doing to strengthen my character? Are there areas of my character in which I need to ask God and others to help me grow?        

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll start a new series! It’s a great time to invite a friend to join. Forward this to them and invite them to view this series and sign up here.

#334 Barnabas: Serving with Failure

Barnabas was a great leader and we have reflected on many great things from his life. But he was not perfect! Two incidents are recorded for us that reveal his imperfections.

36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches (Acts 15:36-41, NIV).

After serving together as a powerful team for years, Paul and Barnabas could not agree on whether to take Mark on the next journey! This unresolved conflict is ironically the last we hear about Barnabas in the book of Acts!

Perhaps even before this well-known disagreement, there was another contentious issue about circumcision in Antioch. Peter acted hypocritically and was rebuked publicly by Paul. In his writing about the incident, Paul also reported:  

The other Jews joined him [Peter] in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray (Galatians 2:13).

In this situation Barnabas and Peter were clearly in the wrong (see note*). But the failures of Barnabas serve as reminders to leaders that even in our failures, we can serve others.

The failure of Barnabas serves by showing that failure is normal.

Paul thought so highly of Barnabas that he said “even Barnabas was led astray.” He implies that Barnabas was the last person he expected to make this mistake! But Barnabas did fail and shows all leaders that failure is to be expected. Certainly, we don’t intend to or plan to fail, but we should anticipate it. Some leaders see failure as a sign of incompetence, so they feel obliged to cover up, deny or ignore failure. But serving leaders accept their humanity and the reality that all leaders fail. They give grace to themselves and ask for grace from others when they fail. In doing so, they serve those they lead by showing that failure is normal.

The failure of Barnabas serves by showing that failure is not the end.

The recorded story of Barnabas ends with the disagreement between him and Paul but his work did not end there. Barnabas took Mark with him on a missionary journey and while we don’t know the results, we can certainly expect that the existing churches were strengthened and other churches planted through their work. Some leaders see failure as the end of their work but serving leaders understand that failure is not final. They learn to continue the journey after each failure and serve by showing that failure is not the end.  

The failure of Barnabas serves by showing that failure can lead to growth.

Both Barnabas and Paul grew through their disagreement. Paul later requested Mark to help him (see 2 Timothy 4:11). Barnabas grew as a team leader while traveling with Mark. God used their disagreement to send out two teams instead of one and brought growth to the churches. On the issue of circumcision both Barnabas and Peter were able to see their mistakes and make corrections. Some leaders see failure as the end of growth but serving leaders see failures as opportunities for growth. They ask what went wrong and what can be learned. They adjust, change, and adapt as needed and then carry on the mission! They serve their teams by growing through failure.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How does the failure of Barnabas challenge me as a leader? What action can I take this week to be more like him as I respond to my own failures?
  • Do I see failure as normal for my own leadership? If so, how do I communicate this to others? If not, how does this impact the way I see and respond to the failures of others?
  • Have I allowed a past failure to stop me from doing what I should be doing? If so, what steps do I need to take to get back on the right path?
  • In what ways have my failures brought growth to my life and leadership? Who needs to hear about what I have learned and when will I share my story with them?               

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

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

*Note. Scholars debate about whether Peter’s visit to Antioch was prior to or after the  Jerusalem Council where the matter of circumcision was resolved by the church leaders. (See Acts 15) If the visit was afterwards, the failure of Peter and Barnabas was certainly more grievous. But whatever the timeline they both failed to live out the gospel message.

#333 Barnabas: Serving with Humility

There’s not a specific verse in scripture that talks about the humility of Barnabas, but there is plenty of evidence that he served with  deep humility. First, while he was a prominent figure in the life of the church, when the people chose the first deacons, his name was not included (see Acts 6:1-6). This might have been a great disappointment to him, but nowhere is there any evidence that he resented this lack of recognition. An even stronger indication of his humility comes in his relationship with Saul (later called Paul) and how they are noted by the historian Luke who wrote the book of Acts. Early in the story the name of Barnabas is always mentioned first. He was a leader before Paul was even converted so naturally his name was prominent. At the church in Antioch, the name of Barnabas was listed first (Acts 13:1). As they set out on the first missionary journey they went as “Barnabas and Saul” (see Acts 13:6). Barnabas was in the forefront. But very soon this changes.

Paul became the key leader on the team, even in Cyprus, the home of Barnabas. By the time they left Cyprus Luke speaks of “Paul and his companions” (Acts 13:13) and after Mark left it was “Paul and Barnabas” (Acts 13:42). From this point forward their names were nearly always listed in this order. (See exceptions in Acts 14:14 and 15:2, 25). After the disagreement Barnabas had with Paul in Acts 15 (which we will examine in our next issue) Barnabas made a missionary trip that Luke did not even include in his history of the church and the name of Barnabas is not mentioned again. Only a humble leader can continue serving after losing recognition. His humility did not make him a weak leader but a serving leader who focused on others rather than himself. Barnabas shows all leaders how to serve with humility.

Humility serves by spotlighting the gifts of others

Barnabas recognized Paul’s gifting early in their relationship and continually pulled Paul into places where he would use those gifts. He brought Paul to the church leaders in Jerusalem and later called Paul to join him at Antioch. Barnabas was a gifted leader, but he humbly shone a light on the gifts of Paul until they were recognized by all.

Some leaders want the focus of attention to be on their own gifts and feel threatened by the gifts of others around them. But serving leaders are not threatened by the gifts of others. They do not downplay their own gifts but call attention to the gifts of others. They humbly affirm and acknowledge that others are gifted in ways that they are not and seek ways to let others know about those gifts.

Humility serves by strengthening the gifts of others.  

Barnabas not only highlighted the gifts of Paul, but he also worked hard to compliment those gifts with his own. He walked alongside of Paul and brought his gifts to bear to their teamwork. He traveled, preached, and led with Paul. Paul, even when he took the lead, needed the gifts of Barnabas.  

Some leaders look for others to strengthen their own gifts. Serving leaders look for ways to strengthen the gifts of others.

Humility serves by submitting to the gifts of others.

Barnabas faded from the records as he allowed Paul to rise up as a leader. He submitted his gifts to the greater good and the mission of the team. Some leaders resist yielding their gifts to a larger purpose. But serving leaders submit their gifts to team goals. When, like Barnabas, that means disappearing from the scene, they accept that with humility. If they are by gifting a “Paul”, they find ways to affirm the gifting of the “Barnabas” on the team which they acknowledge they also need to succeed.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How does the humility of Barnabas challenge me as a leader? What action can I take this week to be more like him?
  • In what ways can I spotlight the gifts of others today instead of my own?
  • In what ways do my gifts strengthen the gifts of others? How can I appropriately acknowledge the role of my own gifts while serving others?
  • Do I consciously submit my own gifts to the mission of the team, or do I see my gifts as more important than the mission? How does this impact my leadership?
  • If I am more of a “Paul” by gifting, what can I do to affirm the role of the “Barnabas” on my team today?   

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler In the next issue, we’ll examine how Barnabas served with failure!

#332 Barnabas: Serving with Availability

One of the greatest ways Barnabas served the early church was simply being available. Several times his story includes a situation where he was sent by the church leaders to fulfill a specific mission. He was first sent by the apostles to the new church in Antioch.  

News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch (Acts 11:22, NIV).

Then Barnabas was sent to safely deliver a financial gift.   

29The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. 30This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul (Acts 11:29-30).

Later, as we have already seen, he was sent with Paul on the first missionary journey.

So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off (Acts 13:3).

When the church council met to debate a contentious issue, Barnabas was sent, along with others, to deliver their decision to the Gentile churches.

Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers (Acts 15:22).

We often think of leaders as the ones who look for people to send to accomplish tasks. But Barnabas shows us that serving leaders are available to be sent.  His posture was one of being available as needed and where needed. Serving leaders learn from his example how to serve by being available.  

Availability serves others by the surrender of program.

Barnabas was available to be sent and again and again gave up his own program to serve others. He gave a most precious gift for a leader, time! He likely had his own schedule before he was sent, but he surrendered that to advance the mission of the team. Serving leaders guard their time carefully, but they learn from Barnabas not to use it selfishly. They are willing to surrender their program to meet the needs of another. They are not intimidated or diminished by being sent. They serve by being available.  

Availability serves others by the surrender of proficiency.   

Barnabas was available to serve with the gifts and talents he brought to the team. He was an encourager and was sent to encourage. He was wise, so was sent to deliver sensitive information. He was dependable, so was sent to carefully handle finances. He was highly proficient as a leader, but deliberately made his gifts available to serve the team. Serving leaders bring their gifts to serve the team, not to build their own credentials. They make their gifts available as needed for the mission. They serve by being available.  

Availability serves others by the surrender of plans.  

Barnabas was not an idle leader with no plans. But he was continually willing to lay down his own dreams and ambitions for the sake of others on the team. This did not diminish his leadership capacity but rather focused it on the needs of others rather than self. Serving leaders are not afraid to surrender their own plans for the advancement of the team. They serve by being available.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How does the availability of Barnabas challenge me as a leader? What action can I take this week to be more like him?
  • Do I have any flexibility in my program/schedule to be available for the needs of others? What do I need to change in the way I manage my time to create opportunities to be available?
  • Do I see the skills and gifts that I possess as resources to be used for myself or for the sake of others? How can I make them available in service to others?
  • Am I willing to lay down my own dreams and plans for the sake of others? What makes it hard for me to surrender these plans? What step can I take in my own leadership to lay down my plans for the team?              

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

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

#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.

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.  

#329 Barnabas: Serving with Generosity 

July 20, 2022 

The first recorded action of Barnabas was one of extreme generosity.   

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 4:36-37, NIV). 

Barnabas sold a field he owned and gave the money to the church leaders. He was not the first of the believers to do this (see Acts 4:34), but his name is the first one mentioned in this regard. His action seems to have inspired Ananias and Sapphira to also sell their land (see Acts 5:1-11) but their heart and motives were entirely opposite to those of Barnabas.  The generosity of Barnabas demonstrates traits that all serving leaders do well to imitate.  

Generosity serves by demonstrating sacrifice. 

Barnabas sold the field he owned. This property was likely at his home in Cyprus and perhaps his family inheritance. He likely needed to travel home and then bring the money back to Jerusalem. In any case, in addition to giving the value of the property he gave time and energy. His act of generosity was a sacrifice and reflected the posture of his heart to give. Many leaders are in leadership for what they can get out of the role whether financial gain, prestige, or power. 

But serving leaders sacrifice their own desires and needs to serve those they lead. At times, like Barnabas, this may be a financial sacrifice. But many times, serving leaders sacrifice time and energy or other resources for those who follow. True generosity always demands costly sacrifice.  

Generosity serves by demonstrating sympathy.   

Barnabas was moved to generosity by the needs in the community. There were people who had needs and he had sympathy and compassion for them. He was not looking down on others, but he was looking out for others. His act of generosity shows his heart of sympathy for the needs of others more than his own needs. He recognized that he had possessions that were not intended only for his use but to bless others.  

Many leaders see others as the means to an end, people that can help accomplish the goal or the vision of the organization. But serving leaders do not see ‘workers’ or ‘members’ but they see human beings with their own dreams, passions, and desires. They look at others and see opportunities to bless and encourage. Because serving leaders focus their heart outward, they respond to these needs with sympathy and compassion. They recognize that they have been entrusted with gifts and resources that are intended to flow through them to others.  

Serving leaders give generously to those with genuine needs because they truly care about others and sympathize with their needs.  

Generosity serves by denying self.    

Barnabas sold his land and “brought the money and put it at the apostle’s feet.” In this gesture he gave up the right to determine what happened with his contribution.  The apostles would decide how it would be used in the early church. He wasn’t generous to receive praise. While it’s natural to want others to recognize our good deeds, Barnabas denied himself in this act. His act of generosity shows the focus of his heart which was on others rather than self.  

Many leaders consider being as generous as Barnabas but want to make sure that their name will be announced in the list of donors. Others act with generosity but want to control the outcomes or determine the way others should receive their gift. But serving leaders deny themselves and generously release power to others.  

For further reflection and discussion: 

  • How does the generosity of Barnabas challenge me as a leader? What action can I take this week to be more like him?  
  • When I give, is my generosity sacrificial or do I usually give only what I don’t want or use anyway? What steps could I take to be more generous?  
  • How do I see others on my team? Do I view them as persons who are there to help accomplish my vision or do I see them as humans of equal worth as myself, with their own dreams, desires, and difficulties? How does my view of others impact my leadership?  
  • Reflect on a time when you gave finances or tangible items to others with these questions. Was I able to give without any need for recognition or appreciation? Was I able to release control of the gift fully to the recipient or did I maintain power in the transaction? What do my actions reflect about my heart?  
  • Read Acts 5:1-11, the account of Ananias and Sapphira who also sold their property. In what ways did their generosity contrast with that of Barnabas?  

Until next time, yours on the journey, 

Jon Byler 

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