No church can grow without those who express its heart by their actions. Leaders will grab headlines, cast visions, and challenge. Encouragers will give heart, work behind the scenes, see the potential for others and help them develop. Barnabas was given that name because he was “the son of encouragement”. While he did not grab headlines, we know enough about him to state that the early church definitely needed him in order to maintain order and grow without becoming legalistic.
If the church had not been so male dominated, Barnabas would have been called the church’s mother, but that would tie it up in another stereotype of genders. Barnabas was able to see the worth in someone that others did not. He willingly took a back seat when it allowed someone else to star. However, if circumstances called for him to lead, he did. He stood up for Paul when he needed encouraging and time to develop. Later, he would stand up to Paul when Mark needed encouragement and time to develop.
We tend to expect perfection from people inside a church. That does not allow for us to be human beings. We talk about forgiving someone. We need to go a step further with Barnabas and encourage them to grow. Just as curing a disease is only one step toward a restoration to health, so spiritually, forgiveness may stop debilitating guilt or shame but it does not restore one to the fullness and wholeness of life. The body must be exercised to regain full vigor after an illness. The spirit must be exercised through service and deepening spirituality if it is to become whole. Getting us up and growing spiritually is the work of the encourager, of Barnabas.
I find myself quite regularly praying for more people like Barnabas in the church and society of today.