At TCC we talk a lot about building redemptive relationships with others, fulfilling our church’s mission of transforming ordinary people into extraordinary followers of Christ. God has designed us to do life with others. We need to learn how to selflessly pour our lives into others, and for that I think that we need a role model. Enter Joseph (but not the the Old Testament one or the earthly father of Jesus). This is a different Joseph altogether. Joseph is a shining example (Acts 4:36–37). Let me give you a little historical background. Right after Jesus’ ascension, Peter preached a sermon and over 3000 people responded. Instant church! That is great,
but all of a sudden Peter and the rest of the Apostles found themselves with an “Extraordinary Challenge” on their hands. They had a church to disciple and a mission field to reach, and that requires resources—people and money. Joseph saw the need, sold some property, and gave all of that money to the church. Joseph was a generous person! The Apostles gave him a nickname—“Barnabas” which means, “Son of Encouragement.”
Barnabas is not a main character, but as you walk through the book of Acts, you see glimpses of his life. We can learn a lot from those snapshots. The next time we see Barnabas is when Saul/Paul becomes a believer (Acts 9). Saul was persecuting the church. One day Jesus appeared to him, blinded him temporarily and revealed himself to be the Christ, the Son of God. As a result of that, Saul believed in Jesus. Later, Paul wanted to fellowship with Christ’s followers, but they (understandably!) didn’t trust him (Acts 9:26–28). Barnabas took a risk and vouched for the reality of Paul’s conversion. Barnabas believes the best about people. He put
his reputation and life on the line for Saul. As a result, Saul became a trusted insider. What would happen in our relationships if we chose to believe the best, by choosing to trust people before they earn it, rather than withholding it until they do earn it? That’s what Barnabas did.
The next snapshot is Acts 11:22–24. Barnabas could have been skeptical, looking for all of the things that they are doing wrong. Instead, he sees evidence of God’s power in the lives of these Gentile converts and begins to encourage them. It is so easy to see people’s faults, but he chose to look for the best in others—and it led to an opportunity for Barnabas to become “the man” at this church. But Barnabas didn’t have a huge ego (Acts 11:25–26). Saul was not in full-time ministry at that time, but Barnabas saw his potential. Not only does he believe the best about Saul, but he also brings out the best in Saul. Barnabas has developed a redemptive relationship with Saul.
Our next snapshot is of Barnabas in Acts 13:2–3, the first record of short-term missions and church planting. Barnabas and Paul had a good thing going in Antioch—they could have been satisfied to stay there. But they obeyed God’s call to reach out, share their faith, and plant vibrant churches in the surrounding communities. It is that same call to missions that is reflected in our Extraordinary Challenge. We want to expand our missions efforts around the world, especially in the 10-40 window.
Barnabas was the leader on this first missionary journey (Acts 13:2-3; 14:11–12). Paul became the great man he was largely because Barnabas believed the best about him, poured into him, and brought out the best in Paul. Barnabas celebrated the success of others. We all want friends like that; if you want friends like that, you have to be that kind of person. If you want to build redemptive relationships with others—the kind of relationship that God uses to draw other people to Himself, imitate Barnabas. He is a great role model.
Here’s one final snapshot: Acts 15:36-41. Paul suggested to Barnabas that they visit the churches they’d planted on the first missionary journey. Barnabas said, “Great idea! Let’s take John Mark with us.” But Paul was adamant that Mark should not go, since he’d abandoned them on the first journey. Paul and Barnabas had a huge disagreement—so much so that Paul and Barnabas separated from one another! Who was right? I think they both were. Paul was right because of the difficulty of the assignment. He needed someone he could count on. But Barnabas saw a young guy who messed up last time, and he said, “I’m willing to give you a second chance.” So I think they both were right. And so Barnabas took Mark and headed to Cyprus. Second Timothy 4:9-11 gives us the only hint of the wisdom of Barnabas’ choice. Paul wrote: “Hey Timothy, everyone has left me here all alone. This guy deserted me and these other people left and went somewhere else. I’m kind of lonely. I could use some help. I’m really hoping that you will come and see me soon. Oh, and try to bring John Mark, because he could really be helpful to me in my ministry.” I absolutely love that! Several years after saying, “I don’t trust him. He is not going with me”, he recognizes that John Mark has developed and now he is someone that he wants on his team. Barnabas developed him! If it weren’t for Barnabas, the following books might be missing from your New Testament: Mark, Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1-2 Timothy, 1-2 Thessalonians, Titus, Pilemon, and maybe even Hebrews (many scholars believe Barnabas wrote it).
Barnabas was a great friend, a great person to have a relationship with. So what about you? Do you want to become the kind of person who believes the best about others, who extends trust before it has been earned, who celebrates the best in others and rejoices in their success? That is what our Extraordinary Challenge is all about! I’m ready to step up to the challenge—and I want you to join me! Give sacrificially, serve sacrificially, and build redemptive relationships. I promise you one thing: if you join me, you will never regret it!