By Mark Dance
Every pastor needs a Barnabas in their life. Barnabas was not only a mentor to Paul, he was also a peer and a friend. I have a handful of ministry friends who have been firewalls for me against isolation, loneliness, and spiritual drift for 34 years of ministry.
According to a study from Lifeway Research, 82% of U.S. Protestant pastors say they feel supported by other local pastors in their area, with 44% strongly agreeing. Most pastors (54%) say they personally know and spend time with fewer than 10 other local pastors.Pastoral wellness is not realistic or sustainable without the help of other pastors. — @markdance Click To Tweet
Pastoral wellness is not realistic or sustainable without the help of other pastors. You don’t need a lot of pastor friends, but you do need a few good ones. So, why don’t more pastors receive this kind of support from other pastors? The primary reason, in my opinion, is that we don’t ask or don’t know what to look for.
What does a Barnabas-type friendship look like? Here are six attributes that Barnabas modeled for a ministry friendship.
A Barnabas Will Be Supportive
Barnabas was a Jewish priest from Cyprus, whose real name was Joseph. The Apostles preferred to use his nickname, which is translated Son of Encouragement (Acts 4:36).
Every single pastor and ministry leader needs a Barnabas who will speak words of encouragement, and sometimes rebuke, into their lives.
When his nephew John Mark “wimped out” on his first mission trip, Paul wanted to permanently kick him off the team. Barnabas chose instead to mentor Mark, who got back on his feet and became a contributing author to the best-selling book in history. Mark would also become an invaluable partner to Peter, and yes, even Paul (2 Timothy 4:11).
A Barnabas Will Be Unselfish
Barnabas sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:36-37).You have enough takers in your world. A Barnabas is the type of friend who will think of your needs as more important than his own. — @markdance Click To Tweet
You have enough takers in your world. A Barnabas is the type of friend who will think of your needs as more important than his own (Philippians 2:3).
A Barnabas Will Be Loyal
When the Jerusalem church leaders sent Barnabas to Antioch to preach, he took along a risky new convert named Saul, also known as Paul. Paul had a reputation for persecuting Christians before his conversion, and few assumed Paul was really a Christian. However, the Apostles trusted Barnabas, and Barnabas trusted Paul. Otherwise, Paul may not have gotten his first ministry opportunity (Acts 11:22-30).
A Barnabas Will Be Mature
When the church at Antioch began to grow exponentially through the conversion of Gentiles, the leaders in Jerusalem got a little nervous. They sent Barnabas to check it out, “For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith” (Acts 11:24).We all need a confidant to share victories and defeats with—someone to talk us off the cliff when we are on the verge of giving up on ministry. — @markdance Click To Tweet
We all need a confidant to share victories and defeats with—someone to talk us off the cliff when we are on the verge of giving up on ministry.
A Barnabas Will Be Humble
Paul was a good writer and speaker, yet there was no evidence of Barnabas doing either. Most Christians are not called or gifted to take up the pen or microphone, so we may be tempted to assume that our gifts are inferior to those on stage.
Somewhere along the way, “Barnabas and Paul” became “Paul and Barnabas.” A change that Dr. Luke subtly, but intentionally, makes in the book of Acts.
A Barnabas Will Be Bold
Barnabas was more than just a nice guy. He didn’t back down to Paul when they had a sharp disagreement about John Mark (Acts 15:36-39). Sons of encouragement don’t look casually beyond our weaknesses, they walk through those challenges with us.True encouragers like Barnabas don't look casually beyond our weaknesses, they walk through those challenges with us. — @markdance Click To Tweet
Some lead best from the stage, while others, like Barnabas, lead best from the shadows. While Barnabas is not credited with having written a word of the New Testament, through his impact on the lives of the Apostle Paul and John Mark and their subsequent influence on other writers, it is possible to say that Barnabas had a significant role in sixty percent of the New Testament. That would make him truly an “unsung hero” of the New Testament, a background guy who shunned the spotlight.
Pastors need more sons of encouragement who are committed to helping other pastors succeed. Who are you encouraging, and who is encouraging you?