Paul Moots. 2014. Becoming Barnabas: The Ministry of Encouragement. Herndon: Alban Institute.
Review by Stephen W. HiemstraOne of the most important ministries in the New Testament is largely unknown and, yet, provides a significant example to many churches. Barnabas was an early benefactor to the Jerusalem church and, because of his social standing, played a key role in reconciling Paul to the Apostles. He also mentored Paul in Antioch. Without Barnabas, Christianity might still be a dissident faction in Judaism rather than a world religion. Yet, only the most astute of Bible students know about Barnabas.
In his book, Becoming Barnabas: The Ministry of Encouragement, Paul Moots writes:
“The ministry of encouragement is the art of leading and supporting others in the discovery of their own spiritual gifts and call to discipleship…We can become a Barnabas…encouragement allows the congregation to shape its ministry around its strengths rather than to base its work on some model derived from another congregation’s story, another pastor’s experience.”(2-3)
Notice the role of story in this description. Each of us and each congregation has its own story of its Christian walk that deserves to be honored and built on. Herein lies our spiritual gifts and our strengths in ministry.
Encouragement is at the heart of the multiplication of gifts and church growth (6). It stands in contrast to the usual concept of discipling that implicitly (or explicitly) defines discipling almost exclusively in a teacher-student role and seeks more to replicate than to strengthen. At the heart of encouragement is respect, much like Barnabas clearly respected Paul. Imagine what might have happened had Barnabas attempted to fashion Paul into a mini-me version of himself?
The Lessons of Barnabas
Moots sees five components of Barnabas’ ministry that together compose the ministry of encouragement: partnership, hospitality, courage, second chances, and character (xvi). He writes in seven chapters:
- The Ministry of Encouragement
- Standing With and Standing Aside: The Ministry of Partnership
- Standing with Outsiders and Outcasts: The Ministry of Hospitality
- Standing Against Fear: The Ministry of Courage
- Standing Against Failure: The Ministry of Reconciliation
- Authenticity in Ministry: Character and Call(v)
These chapters are preceded by a foreword and preface, and followed by notes and readings.
Standing Against Fear
One of the most unexpected insights that Moots brings to the Barnabas accounts in the Book of Acts is his recognition of the need for courage in offering encouragement. Moots writes:
“One difficulty I may have in approaching the problem of fear in ministry is my reluctance to admit that the fear exists.”(61)
He notes that fear is an important component of stress in ministry. We experience the fears of change, of consequences, of losing control, of admitting weakness, and of failing God (62-68). Moots suggests meeting regularly with colleagues in ministry to care for each other in the midst of spiritual warfare (74). He reminds us that fear is about condemnation which is why love drives it out (76-77).
Sons of Encouragement
Barnabas is mentioned in twenty-eight verses in the New Testament. All but five verses are found in the Book of Acts. He is also mentioned in First Corinthians, Galatians, and Colossians.
Acts 4:36 explains that Barnabas means son of encouragement, which is described as his nickname because his given name is Joseph and he is said to be a Levite which implies that he is a priest. This reference is curious because bar-nabas literally means son of the prophet in Hebrew. Prophets are known for offering encouragement, which suggests the alternative inference.
Paul Moots’s book Becoming Barnabas: The Ministry of Encouragement is an accessible book filled with scriptural and ministry insights. While clearly pitched to pastors, lay leaders may also benefit.
Other ways to engage online:
Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.