There was a time in my life when I was reflecting on myself and my ministry. If you are familiar with the concept of motivation gifts and the seven personality types, then you are aware of how people are different in both their strengths and weaknesses. My motivational gift is “facilitator leader,” and I realized one of my weaknesses was being low on mercy. A pastor needs to have feelings for other people, so I asked the Lord how I could develop that gift. He gave me a ministry that I could have. It was simply the ministry of encouragement. I was to take hold of opportunities to encourage others, especially those called into ministry positions.
Now I don’t claim to have done that perfectly, but I must have got it right at times. Recently, I received an email from a pastor of a dynamic and growing church here in the Twin Cities. It read… “God used your support and encouragement to establish and drive insecurity from my leadership. I thank God for you.” I was blessed to receive that feedback, and I rejoice in how God is now using that pastor in wonderful ways. In return, he has been an encouragement to me also.
So let us look at the ministry of encouragement, a ministry that everyone can have. Let’s start off with a tremendous biblical example – Barnabas.
We first meet Barnabas at the end of Acts 4 when it records how he sold land that he had possessed and brought the money and laid it at the apostle’s feet (i.e., to be used in the work of the ministry in the church). We then pick up the story in Acts 11, where Barnabas is sent down by the church in Jerusalem to the church in Antioch to check out what was happening there. It seems that following the persecution that arose over the death of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, believers were scattered. Some came down to Antioch, where they ministered not only to Jews but also to Gentiles. Thus, it became the first Gentile church. Barnabas had a positive response to what he saw and encouraged them in what they were doing, for in that time, a great number believed and turned to the Lord.
Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Paul. In turn, he brought him back to Antioch, where they taught a great many people. In Acts 13, we then have the story of Paul and Barnabas being sent out on their first missionary journey, and the subsequent chapters tell the story of their ministry.
Later, in chapter 15, after returning to Antioch and following a conflict with some Judaizers, Paul and Barnabas went up to Jerusalem for the Council in Jerusalem, where the matter was resolved. Back in Antioch, Paul wanted Barnabas and himself to revisit the churches that they established on their first missionary journey. However, they ended up separating due to a contention regarding John Mark, who Paul did not want to take with them. Whereas Barnabas was willing to encourage him and take him along. The result was a breakup of the partnership. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus, which was his original homeland, and possibly settled down there as there is very little recorded about him in the book of Acts after that.
There is another occasion that Barnabas is mentioned in Galatians 2 when Paul confronted Peter. He is also briefly mentioned in 1 Corinthians 9:16.
Now there are certain qualities and characteristics of Barnabus that are worth noting.
- His name was originally Joses, but the Apostles called him Barnabas, which means “son of consolation.” Obviously, he got his name from what he did and that he was an encourager. He seemed to have universal respect because he apparently continuously encouraged people.
- Barnabas had many good qualities. We see this particularly when he was sent down to Antioch, where he is described as “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:24, NKJV). It also declares that when he first came there and had “seen the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all with purpose of heart that they should continue with the Lord” (Acts 11:23, NKJV).
- The most significant example of this was his encouragement of Paul. He first befriended Paul when Paul came to Jerusalem following his conversion on the road to Damascus. The Christians in Jerusalem were unsure of Paul being a disciple of Christ, but it was Barnabas who introduced him to the apostles.
- It didn’t stop there, as it was Barnabas who went to find Paul and bring him to the church in Antioch, where they ministered together and eventually went out on their first missionary journey. One wonders what would have happened to Paul if Barnabas had not gone looking for him. Undoubtedly, God would have released him some other way, but Barnabas was the one who God used to encourage Paul and give him the opportunity to begin his ministry. We will never know how much Paul owed to Barnabas.
- Barnabas was also humble enough to seemingly recognize the anointing was on Pual to lead their mission outreaches. To start with, it was Barnabas and Saul (Paul), and then it was Paul and Barnabas. An encourager gave way to the one he had encouraged.
Barnabas is an example of an encourager that we can follow.
There are many ways we can do this, through spoken word, through writing notes, emails, letters, etc. Here in America, it was pastor’s appreciation month in October, an opportunity for people to write a card to encourage their pastor.
Let me share a recent event that brought great encouragement to my wife Dorothy and also to me. On Mother’s Day this year, the family gave her three blessing jars filled with slips of paper, upon which were written words from various family members expressing thanks, showing appreciation, quoting scriptures, hymns, or songs, or recalling memories involving Dorothy as their mother or grandma. Here are some of these in abbreviated form:
- Your life is an amazing example of stepping out in faith and being a light to those around you.
- Thank you for all the wonderful advice and wisdom that you shared with me in all our ‘Grandma Chats.’
- I cherish the memories of all our long phone calls together. Thank you for the encouragement and prayers over the years.
- “He will cover you with his feathers and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart” – Psalm 91:4 (NKJV).
- Thank you for letting me dress up in all your hats and jewelry.
- I am thankful that you answered God’s call (no matter how crazy) and inspired another generation to do the same.
- Thank you for taking the time to just sit with me. I remember Christmas Eve snuggling up next to you on the couch, listening to Christmas music, and watching the lights twinkle in the darkness.
- Thank you for the fun I had helping you with the gardening during the summer and especially the BLTs you would make me for lunch.
- “Jesus, Jesus, you make the darkness tremble. Jesus, Jesus, you silence fear” from the song Tremble by Upperroom.
Each night at suppertime, I pull out 4 or 5 of these slips and read them to Dorothy, bringing her encouragement. You may like to try it with your family or small group.
BE AN ENCOURAGER TODAY
There it is, a simple invitation to be like Barnabas. Be an encourager. As I have written above, there are many ways to do this, such as:
- Check in to see how they are doing
- Send a note telling them how they have been a blessing to you
- Pray for them
- Invite them to a family meal over the holidays.
- Look for ways to meet a practical need in their life.
Be like Barnabas. Be an encourager.
Excellent! I love being a “Barney,” :]