He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
— ACTS 11:24
Barnabas is the unsung hero of the early Church. He is introduced to us in Acts 4:36 as someone who is committed to the radical ideals of communal life in the early Church. Next, he appears as the one who understands that Saul, soon to be Paul, has had an encounter with Jesus; and while the church in Jerusalem fears him due to his past life as a persecutor of the Church, Barnabas understands that God has placed his hand on Saul and helps him integrate into the life and mission of the early church. When the Spirit was doing something unique in Antioch, Barnabas was dispatched to see what was going on. Barnabas discerned the amazing work of God and equipped and empowered this fledgling group of new Christians. When the early church was engaged in a divisive debate over the nature of salvation and how it related to Gentiles, Barnabas advocated for the Gentiles, going against years of tradition in order to make the Gospel more accessible to all people.
Barnabas was a “noticer.” He had a genuine ability to notice where God was at work. Whether it was a new initiative of the Spirit, a doctrinal issue that needed to be sorted out or
a person who needed to be encouraged and empowered, Barnabas was sensitive to where the Spirit was at work, and he was determined to help facilitate that work. As such, he played a key role in the unfolding of God’s story. Are you a “noticer”? Are you trying to actively discern where God is at work? As you notice where God is at work, you can help empower the Church to pursue God’s mission in our day.
1. Where am I noticing the work of the Spirit these days? How can I encourage the Spirit’s work in that context?
2. Is there someone I know who could use my encouragement in their ministry today? How is the Spirit prompting me to respond to their need?
Lee Beach is an Assistant Professor of Christian Ministry and Director of Ministry Formation at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, ON. Lee served in pastoral ministry with the C&MA for twenty-two years and is currently on the lead team of Ancaster Village Church with his wife, Joanne, in Ancaster, ON. Author of The Church in Exile: Living in the Church After Christendom