He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. (Acts 11:24-26)
Now Saul is the apostle Paul. Barnabas played a huge role in that Paul was able to embark on the path of serving God from a human point of view.
Before his Damascus Road experience, Paul enthusiastically followed the letter of the law as a Jewish person. He persecuted the church, taking Christians from their homes and putting them in prison. He got the necessary documents from the Jewish high priests and ordered the synagogues to cooperate with him in arresting those who believed in Jesus, having them sentenced in Jerusalem. Because of this, churches at that time shunned Paul if they heard his name. Even though the news that Paul had repented, accepted Jesus and was preaching the gospel spread throughout the churches, the Christians still did not believe. Therefore, Paul at that time had no way to serve the Lord and had no opportunity to use his talents.
But when Paul was struggling to find a way to serve, his spiritual mentor appeared — Barnabas. Barnabas was sent by the Jerusalem church to Antioch to serve the church, where he ministered until many people believed in the Lord. He took the initiative to find Paul so he could work with him, and they serve the Antioch Church together. It was Barnabas's vision and acceptance that helped Paul to formally participate in the service of the church, and his enthusiasm and gifts could be used. Barnabas helped Paul to be the great apostle in the church. Not only did Paul establish many churches, but he also wrote thirteen letters to the church which became part of the New Testament canon later.
Although the church today lacks people like Paul, it does not mean that the church lacks talented persons. Many churches today are crying out for the lack of workers. In fact, the main reason is that they lack leaders like Barnabas. Not only don’t they follow the example of Barnabas, they even do the opposite. Some church leaders are unwilling to give others the opportunity and platform to serve and always like to suppress them. Some church leaders are reluctant to use those who are truly talented and gifted, always afraid that these people will take their own authority and prestige. They do not accept or tolerate people who have had flaws or faults in their past and are always unwilling to trust others.
Many of the theological students today cannot find the opportunity to serve in the church after graduation. In the end, they become discouraged and look for jobs outside of the church. Some church leaders do not even ask why young graduates leave. They may even say that these theological students do not love the Lord and love the world. If these students who go outside of the church to find work would have more confidence placed in them, they may insist on being part of the church and going to church gatherings. But those with weaker faith may have many complaints and even not attend the gatherings.
Today's church not only needs people with gifts like Paul, but it also needs people like Barnabas who are willing to help others. In some ways, people like Barnabas are even more needed. Looking forward we trust that there will be more broad-minded leaders in the church like Barnabas.
(Note: The author of this article is a full-time co-worker of a grassroots church in Fujian.)
-Translated by Abigail Wu