One of the temptations we all experience is thinking of church growth with secular standards. If we have a big number of attendees at an event, or an event doesn’t cost much to the church, we consider it a success. We sometimes think the same way about people. If people aren’t accomplishing great things, or making great achievements, we consider them failures.
We had Rally Sunday on September 12, 2010 to start the church year. Are some of us looking for “successful” events and great faith heroes? What should we look for in people? After the stoning of Stephen, the church was explicitly persecuted and scattered. Saul was one of the most powerful persecutors of the followers of Christ until the Lord revealed Himself on the way to Damascus, and he repented and became a dynamic preacher of the Gospel of the Good News of Jesus Christ. When God led him to return to join the disciples, he obeyed, came to Jerusalem and tried to join the church. But the disciples were not ready to try to see the new person in Saul, because they were afraid.
But here comes Barnabas with a very crucial role to play: Introduce the Christian Saul to the apostles, convincing them that the Lord has changed that vicious and furious man to a humble and serving follower of Him. Barnabas is not presented to us as a great preacher like Paul or Peter or Timothy. But Barnabas did encourage Saul and the disciples. He lifted them up and the church started to grow very rapidly.
There are just a few sentences about Barnabas in the New Testament. The best description of him is found in Acts 11:24 – He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.
We know from our Lord’s teaching that God alone is good, as He said to the young ruler: Why do you call Me good? Only God is good, meaning only God is perfect. I don’t think Barnabas was a perfect or sinless person, but I believe he lived his life according to Biblically moral and ethical standards, full of the Holy Spirit, bearing the fruits of the Spirit which are listed in Galatians 5 in such an obvious way that the Bible describes him as a good man. We don’t need to try to be Paul or Timothy. If God gives us that gift and blesses us, that’s great. But the reality is that God gives each one of us a different gift. Barnabas had the gift to encourage people and he did so wonderfully. What’s your gift? How do you want to use it?
We are looking for people to acknowledge God-given gifts and be willing to use them joyfully for His glory.
Rev. Mgrdich Melkonian,
Senior Pastor, First Armenian Presbyterian Church
Fresno, CA, USA