Thursday, November 7, 2013

From Paul to Barnabas by Chris Clayman

Many of us in pioneer missions have a temperament and focus akin to Paul. We want to be on the front lines--sharing Christ on the frontier and not on a foundation laid by someone else (Rom 15:20). While I certainly seek to continue living in this way, I have noticed a shift over the last year or so in the role God wants me, and many like me, to play.

In Acts 11, the story is told of a a movement of God outside the main Christian stream of the time. A church was started in Antioch and it was largely made up of non-Jews. The Jerusalem church heard about this Gentile movement and sent Barnabas to check it out. He was pleased at what he saw and exhorted them to stay faithful. With his credentials, knowledge, and experience, he could have remained in that movement and been the key figure. Instead, he immediately went to Tarsus where there was a diaspora Jew named Paul (who was outside of the mainstream Jerusalem church activities himself), and took him back to Antioch to train the people. Later, Barnabas and Paul were sent out from Antioch, and the incredible feats recorded in Acts of God's work through Paul ensued.

When we think about Acts we think about Paul and not Barnabas, but it was Barnabas that was used by God to identify and encourage the person who had the calling, gifts, and proximity of culture to be effective in ministry among the unreached peoples of the time. Without Barnabas, we wouldn't have the great stories of God's work through Paul.

I am a white guy from Texas. Although I have gone to great lengths to learn culture, language, and how to be effective in sharing Christ with African Muslims, most likely a movement would never take place among these people with me being the key figure. I need to be more Barnabas than Paul--to see where God is working among the least-reached, encourage those beginning to walk with Christ, and identify, connect, and work behind those workers that will be most effective in fanning the flame God has started (which will most often be found within the Muslim-background community itself). As much as I have the desire to be on the front lines, God has been painfully showing me that the role I need to be playing more of is that of a connector, mobilizer, catalyzer, identifier, and trainer of those who are to be on the front lines.