Some of the most defaming and condescending speech I have heard has come from those who are inside the church. Some of the most degrading talk I have heard has come from those within the church who disagree over some particular issue of church business or some sort of business outside the church. Moreover, some of the most direct disrespect I have been subjected to as a minister has come from those within the church (when I say "church" please know that I am referring to those who claim to have a relationship with Jesus Christ). Now, please hear my heart, my ministry is not filled to overflowing with those who are defaming, condescending, degrading, and disrespectful; my local church is not characterized by a continuous spirit of degradation. My point is that the same attitude of disrespect and degradation found outside the church can also be prevalent inside the body of the church and on the same hate-filled level as those outside the church. To be honest the only reason I can derive as to why believers fall into this trap of being disrespectful and defaming is that when believers fail to honor Christ with their actions and attitudes they begin to promote self, which requires a tearing down of others in order to accomplish. This is the precise reason why believers should be on guard continually against allowing the spirit of Satan to rear its face. Moreover, I think believers should employ what is known as the Barnabas Principle.
Barnabas is first mentioned in Acts 4 as man who was of the lineage of Levi and also from the island of Crete. Actually, Barnabas was not his given name. He was named Joseph but the apostles called him Barnabas because of his character of being an encourager. Barnabas, according to Acts 4:36, means "Son of Encouragement." We also see Barnabas at work in Acts 9:27 acting as Saul's representative to the apostles in Jerusalem. Barnabas testified to the encounter with the Lord and the change of direction in Saul's life. Later, beginning in Acts 13 we discover Barnabas accompanying Paul (Saul) on his missionary travels. Later, at the end of Acts 15, we see Barnabas standing in disagreement with Saul while attempting to be an advocate and supporter for John Mark. Just through these short examples it should be clear that the Barnabas Principle has everything to do with being an encouragement to fellow believers and standing up as a supporter of the people of God. In order to accomplish these two ideas one must possess humility and selflessness—two characteristics that stand opposed to the attitude mentioned at the beginning of this post.
I for one have been blessed to experience the ministry and support of a Barnabas in my life. This man has been a source of encouragement during multiple private interactions when my spirit was in need of a tender touch. The man has also been my advocate on many occasions publically when it seemed as though the world was coming against me. Conversely, this man has also confronted me in the same manner as when Barnabas confronted Paul over John Mark when I was attempting to make a decision that was not the most excellent. However, by this man's actions before me, he has taught me how to be a Barnabas among fellow believers. My Barnabas knows who he is and knows that I am grateful for his ministry to my soul.
I tell you all of this for two reasons. First, the body of Christ is in need of more people like Barnabas; more people characterized by their encouragement of others. As I stated earlier, the lost world is concerned about the promotion of self; therefore, believers must find genuine encouragement from those within the family of God. This means more people of encouragement need to rise up and encourage the family of God to be what God has called them to be in this world. Secondly, to those who have been on the receiving side of the ministry of a Barnabas, it is now your time to be on the lookout for an opportunity to take what you have experienced and pour that same ministry into the lives of others. Believers are not to sit back and receive all the encouragement; rather, there are seasons of life where one receives the ministry of a Barnabas and then there are seasons of life where you become the Barnabas for someone else who is in need of ministry. Thus, what takes place is a circular motion of encouragement that continues to build up the body of Christ, strengthen the body of believers, and serve as a witness to the lost world around us. I encourage to you employ the Barnabas Principle as you receive and give out encouragement.
James Christopher Powell has served as assistant minister in Northwest Florida for ten years.
He studies at The Baptist College of Florida where he is working on a Master's degree in Christians Studies.
He married his wife Jennifer in March 2014.