All of us do it, whether it is to get someone to join a club or choose a career. We nudge or question, “Have you ever thought of serving?” Or, “I think you would be great at teaching!” Speaking to the potential in someone that they do not yet see in themselves, is powerful.
I think of the stories of Barnabas, Paul and Timothy as classic examples of this. Paul, a newcomer to Christianity, needed someone to vouch for his sincerity, since he had been zealously persecuting followers of Jesus. Barnabas, an insider to the movement, befriended Paul and convinced the leaders in Jerusalem to give him a chance. He opened a door for Paul that Paul could not have opened himself.
Barnabas continued to walk alongside Paul in various mission journeys. He modeled for Paul what it meant to be a witness to this God of forgiveness and transformation. The meaning of the name “Barnabas” in Greek is “son of encouragement,” and that is exactly who Barnabas was for Paul. He saw that Paul had a lot to overcome in his past, but that God had called him to be a witness to Jesus. He took a big risk to introduce Paul to the leaders and take him along to spread the good news of Jesus. But as we know today, Paul played a significant part in the spread of the Christian faith.
Later, Paul continued in the tradition of Barnabas and accompanied younger believers on ministry trips, teaching them the ropes. Timothy, in particular, was a man in whom Paul saw potential and chose to mentor and disciple.
In my own life, I have had many people who have encouraged me to explore ministry, and particularly mission. One of the most influential persons in my life was my youth pastor. She was available for my questions and gave me opportunities to try out ministry. She invested in me in ways that built my faith and gave me confidence to continue stepping out. She was my Barnabas.
During college, I discerned, with those close to me, that I was called to ministry and mission, so it seemed fitting when I met and married a man who had the same sense of purpose. Together, we served 14 years in Germany, working with the German Mennonite Church in church planting. We met Germans who were willing to take a chance on us, two young Americans who were open to, at the very least, trying to do what we were asked.
In time, through ministry to new believers and youth, we were able to be like Barnabas, who encouraged, opened doors, and nudged others to step out in God’s calling. It has been very rewarding to watch youth that we walked with choose service and ministry for themselves.
Who has been your Barnabas or Paul? Who has seen something in you that you may not have been able to see yourself?
Who around you could benefit from hearing your words of encouragement? Whether it is service with Mennonite Mission Network’s partners in more than 50 countries, or stateside, we hope you will join our network, which exists to serve the worldwide body of Christ.