I was thinking about Paul’s ministry recently. For those of you who are not as familiar with this biblical leader, Paul was a Jewish Pharisee who was zealously persecuting Christians in the early church until one day, Jesus stopped Him along the road to Damascus and Paul’s life was changed forever. In the months and years to come, Paul faced the challenge of proving to Christians and Jesus’s disciples that he had truly changed and was not the man he used to be. At first, he was not received well among the brothers until a man named Barnabas intervened.
The name Barnabas means “son of encouragement,” and encourage is exactly what he did. He took Paul under his wing and gave him the motivation to keep serving even when the road ahead was difficult. The two became partners in the ministry: one who was passionate about evangelism and the other who was passionate about encouraging the one whom God had called to serve.
As I was thinking about Barnabas, I considered the people in my life who have Barnabas-like characteristics. I thought of the woman I affectionately call Mama Dori. Dori is a sweet lady in our congregation who exudes peace, joy, and seemingly limitless energy. She claims that she can’t sing a note but that she loves to worship. She often approaches me or Vanessa after a service and thanks us for our ministry. She can sometimes sense when we need a little lift…. when things get stressful or after we’ve just played a difficult song. She often suggests new worship songs that we should play and then she is the first to give positive feedback once we play it live. Mama Dori is my worship and music Barnabas.
Paul, Vanessa’s husband, has also been a Barnabas to me in worship ministry. Since his wife, Vanessa, is active in OneVoice and worship in general, Paul has taken an active role in supporting everything we do. He is also passionate about worship within the church, so he is often one of the first to share a kind word of encouragement before or after a service. I can’t put words to what his encouragement has meant to me over the past few months. Just a few words from him in passing is all it takes to bring a smile to my face and put a spring in my step. To know that he supports what we do has been a huge motivator for me.
Joe and Greg have been my YLF Barnabas figures. When I first took over as director, it was a difficult transition. Joe had passed along to me what I would need to set things in motion, but the transition did not come without setbacks. I faced a great deal of adversity that came through the form of two challenging staff members. Over the first few months of my time in leadership, I endured harsh criticism from these individuals, and one even had the audacity to tell me that I wouldn’t make a good director at all and that it was only a matter of time before I crumpled under the pressure. At one point, I was ready to resign, and I shared my concerns and stress over email with Joe. But Joe wasn’t about to let me give up the fight. He assured me that I had the training and skills to move forward and that I shouldn’t give those naysayers a foothold over my drive for success.
Joe is no longer available to me as frequently now, but Greg has stepped up and become an encourager of sorts. Whenever times get rocky in the YLF camp, Greg is quick to offer a kind or comforting word. I can remember one such instance when I had just endured a confrontation with one of the naysayers. Tears were running down my face and I could barely speak, but Greg sat across the table from me and offered his silent support. It was one memorable time when his encouragement didn’t come in the form of words but in a tangible, unspoken form.
In thinking about my Bananas encouragers, I stopped to consider how I might offer similar encouragement to others. I must admit that encouragement is not my strong suit. I am a leader, yes, but I am often so self-driven that I don’t stop to think that the people under my leadership might need some guidance and support. At the risk of sounding like an excuse, I think this stems from the fact that I am fiercely independent. Yes, I have thrived from the encouragement from others, but once I am motivated, I am driven to finish. That’s why I said I am self-driven. This can be good for me but also negative in many ways. I need to remember that I am not alone in this journey forward and that others need my encouragement and support. I need to reach out to others like Greg, Joe, Paul, and Dori have done for me. Perhaps someone needs me to be a Barnabas to them. So I am moving forward now with a self-prescribed challenge. It is time to encourage others, and I have one of the best examples in Barnabas as I move forward.

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