Barnabas was one of the great leaders of the early Christian Church. His name, loosely translated, means “Brother Encourager.”
He’s first mentioned in Acts 4:36, encouraging the newly formed church by the donation of proceeds from the sale of land. His selfless act encouraged others to begin giving to the church, too.
Barnabas next appears in Acts 9:26-28, introducing Paul to the other apostles, encouraging them to accept him, clearing Paul’s way to come into fellowship with the rest of the brethren. Imagine what the church would have lost if Paul had not been accepted because of his past record of murdering Christians. Many churches wouldn’t have been established; we wouldn’t have his epistles. We have Barnabas to thank that we do.
Next, in Acts 13:5, we find Barnabas and Paul on a mission trip, taking John along as their helper. But in Acts 13:13, young John abandoned the trip. In Acts 15:37-38, Paul refused to allow this John to accompany him on another trip, but Barnabas took him under his wing. If Barnabas had not decided to give this man another chance, we might not have the Gospel of Mark, because this John was John Mark.
From this, we get an idea of what it means to be an encourager of the church. Through financial giving, we too can encourage God’s work. By encouraging the new Christians, we can help them be accepted in the Body. By giving those who stumble and fail a second chance, we can salvage a lot of prodigals who may become very useful to God.
In today’s church there are some who have this ministry, who encourage us, make us achieve our best, help us to go on when we want to quit. Their words of faith actually create us into what God wants us to become. There’s a great need in the church for people who edify and build others up.
Unfortunately, in some churches, there are very few Brother Encouragers, but an abundance of Brother Gripers, Sister Criticizers, Brother Discouragers, etc. Negative Christians really turn others off. So many people are living such desperate lives in the world, that by the time they make it through the doors of the church, they’ve been badly hurt.
It’s human nature to look at the “prodigal” in our brother, and not see the “son.” To look at people’s weaknesses and not at their strengths. We need to learn to count the other person as being more worthy than ourselves (Phil. 2:3-4), and learn to find the Christ at the center of every person and situation. Whatever attribute or weakness we focus on in someone’s life, we can cause them to become that. We need to learn to see through the eye of understanding and faith, rather than condemnation.
Thank God, there are people in the churches like Barnabas who have a gift of giving people second and third chances when they mess up. These are able to keep their eyes on their brother’s potential, and bring forth their possibilities in Christ, while others stand back in judgment.
I believe God has called the church to be a Barnabas church, which encourages, edifies and builds one another up, so that all who enter can have a chance to reach their potential in Christ.
Rev. Anne Barber, is pastor of My Father’s House, 7215 U.S. 301 N., Ellenton. For more information, visit www.myfathershouseinc.com.