More prophets – More pastors – More evangelists – More teachers – More apostles? Paul says that God gave us these to build His kingdom (Ephesians 4). He also said that we have been given gifts to help each other; these gifts are not just for ourselves (Romans 12). I believe that one of the gifts we most need in abundance is encouragement. If our time in the world (job, relationships, every day stresses like finances) doesn’t beat us up enough, we also receive plenty of bruises and verbal flogging within the church. Yes, within the church! If you are puzzled by my statement, maybe you have never been the chairperson of a committee, organized an event, been a Sunday School teacher, or noticed the fatigue in your pastor or the worship leader. Where is Barnabas?
We first hear about Barnabas (originally Joseph) in Acts 4 when his name change is clarified as ‘the Encourager’ as he brings the offering of the proceeds from the field he sold. His free offering is set in direct contrast to the manipulative, partial-offering of Ananias and Sapphira. Barnabas is then portrayed as the ‘other half’ of the team for the very volatile and high-energy Paul. It is Barnabas who connects the man who was Saul the persecutor to the disciples in Jerusalem who are understandably wary of bringing Paul into that inner circle of the Church’s leadership. Given Paul’s personality I believe it is reasonable to assume that it is Barnabas who takes care of the details that will implement the visions that Paul has been given for the various churches. I can see Barnabas meeting with the workers in the church and showing them how to set up widow and orphan care and encouraging the worship leaders to bring together all the pieces on Sabbath. And when Paul hears of dissension in the church they left flourishing three months ago, it is Barnabas who is used to sift through the emotions and hear the truth of the choices that each fellowship has made as they move through growing pains.
We need encouragers who will listen to God’s Spirit that inspires a note to a struggling member in the Body. We need encouragers who will speak the truth of God in a committee, bringing the focus to God’s plan of serving others, especially unbelievers, new believers, children, and those in His focused mission of a given church. We need encouragers who will inspire and empower others to be involved in the ministry of Christ, not just pew sitters. We need encouragers who will send that card, that email, that text message to workers, those seen and those behind the scenes, who need that “’Way to go!”, “Thank you!”, and “We so appreciate you!”. It is Living Water from the well of God. The thirsty workers may have allowed themselves to become so busy that they do not even realize that they are dehydrated!
An encourager who greatly impacted my life and many, many in our church was Janet, a senior citizen who told me that she sometimes felt that she wasn’t doing enough for Jesus since her health had declined and she spent a great deal of her time caring for her husband who had Alzheimer’s. She did not realize the HUGE impact her well-timed notes. Her notes would arrive so timely, usually not because of any significant thing that I had done but because she felt the “nudge of God” (her words) to write a note to encourage. When she died a few years ago, the gathering to celebrate her life filled a sanctuary with an infinite number of stories about Janet’s notes. I will even go out on a spiritual limb and say that her notes made as significant an impact on God’s Kingdom as any prophecy that has been spoken.
Have you felt the “nudge of God” this week? Have you taken the time to notice someone’s weary eyes or slumped shoulders? In this day of texting, email, ecards, Twitter, Facebook, and Skype, we all have many, even convenient, ways to send a word of encouragement. The Kingdom multiplication of those few minutes to receive that “nudge” and obediently respond would be … Let’s do it and see what happens!