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The teamwork between Paul and Barnabas and the mentoring that Paul gave to young pastors like Timothy has lessons that can help to minimize drop outs from the ministry today.
Paul was at the forefront of persecuting Christians when God called him. He gave approval to the stoning of Stephen (Acts 8:1). Jesus appeared to him as he was travelling to Damascus to persecute Christians. Three years later, “When he came to Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him . . . But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles” (Acts 9:26).
Barnabas gave Paul a safe landing into the ministry by befriending him and by dispelling the fear and suspicion from the Christians in Jerusalem. Similarly when pastors join the ministry they need someone who can play the role of Barnabas and dispel prejudice from older workers.
Mentoring and Team Work
After giving Paul a safe landing in Jerusalem, Barnabas went to Tarsus to invite Paul to team up with him (Acts 11:25-26). Barnabas seems to be the team leader and mentor since his name is consistently mentioned first (verses 26, 30, 13:2, 7). After Paphos the roles change and Paul assumes a leadership role. If this assumption is correct it shows us that Barnabas recruited and mentored Paul before he trusted him with a leadership position.
High Regard for Church Authority
The church at Antioch was visited by men from Judea who taught that Gentile converts could not be saved without circumcision. This issue divided the Church and resulted in Paul and Barnabas being requested to go to Jerusalem to seek the counsel of the elders. These two apostles respected the authority of the church. White (Acts of the Apostles, 1911) stresses,
Christ had now a church as His representative on earth . . . Many have an idea that they are responsible to Christ alone for their light and experience . . . but He (Jesus) respects the means that He has ordained for the enlightenment and salvation of men; He directs sinners to the church (p. 122).
For this reason when Paul and Barnabas encountered problems in their ministry they went to Jerusalem to seek the wisdom of the elders. Pastors today would do well to follow Paul’s example instead of getting stressed with problems and suffering burnout resulting in them dropping from the ministry.
On the second missionary journey Barnabas wanted to take Mark but Paul was in disagreement because Mark had deserted them on the first missionary journey. The Bible says, “They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyrus, but Paul chose Silas and left” (Acts 15:39-40).
This was a constructive way of managing conflict. The two parted ways without prejudicing the cause of God. Many years later Paul writes to Timothy, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Tim 4:11). White (1911) tells us, “Under the blessing of God, and the wise training of Barnabas, he developed into a valuable worker” (p. 170). Barnabas worked on Mark until he became such a helpful evangelist. He considered parting company with Paul a better option than writing off a new worker. The conflict helped Mark to make a new beginning in his spiritual journey and to learn from the wisdom and experience of Barnabas.
Paul and Timothy
Paul must have learnt patience and recruitment techniques from Barnabas. In recruiting Timothy he consulted with believers who knew him well as opposed to making a one man decision (Acts 16:1). At the point of recruitment he made an effort to avoid confrontation with the Jews by circumcising the young man.
At Philippi although Timothy was in the company of Paul he is not listed among those who were imprisoned (Acts 16:19, 25). Probably Paul suggested to the authorities not to include this young inexperienced trainee in case he would desert them as Mark once did.
Timothy is referred to as Paul’s helper just as Joshua was Moses’ aid. (Acts19:22). As he gained experience we find his title changing from helper to “fellow worker” (Rom 16:21), “my son whom I love” (1 Tim 1:2) and “our brother” (Phlm 1).
After training him Paul does not hesitate to say, “If Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am” (1 Cor 16:10). He is now sent on important errands because he has gained experience in the Lord’s service (Phil 2:19-22). In several of Paul’s letters Timothy is empowered enough to be treated as co-author of the letters (2 Cor1:1, Phil1:1).
As an established pastor he continues to receives counsel from Paul the senior worker on how to run his churches (1 Tim 3, 2 Tim 2:15, 4:2). Finally when Paul was in prison in Rome he needed the company and support of Timothy (2 Tim 4: 9, 21). It is evident that Paul developed a team of successors that carried on the work after him.
Paminus Machamire is a Seventh-day Adventist Pastor who currently serves as a Vice President of the Southern Africa Indian-Ocean Division
This article is excerpted from A Project Proposal Presented in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirement for the Degree Doctor of Ministry by Paminus Machamire June, 2010
White, E. G. The acts of the apostles. Boise: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1911.