Most Christians know the name of the apostles in the Bible. They are given high importance, and rightly so. One of the most important leaders — less well known — was Barnabas. Why was he so critical to the life of the church?
The early church was experiencing great persecution, part of which was spearheaded by Saul of Tarsus. Saul experienced a radical conversion when he encountered the risen Lord Jesus. He was renamed Paul. Paul was certainly not someone that the disciples and apostles wanted to be near, much less work with or listen to, even though God had appointed Him to be an apostle. Barnabas heard him speak, recognized the anointing on him, and risked his own reputation with his friends — and perhaps even all of their lives — by bringing Paul to them with a positive recommendation.
Please note that Barnabas did not wait for Paul to develop a long-term, successful reputation — he acted on with a heart of encouragement and discernment from the Spirit of God. Without Barnabas’ positive recommendation, it is very likely that the church would not have grown as fast nor as vibrantly as it did.
MBBs tend to be skeptical of outsiders, especially concerned that the incoming MBB might be a plant from the religious police (or the equivalent). There is a lack of trust based on skepticism. This skepticism grows from valid concerns, but often blocks fellowship and the growth of the church because of hypervigilance.
In order to grow properly, MBB leaders will need to pray for the ability to discern who is called to lead, then act bring those new leaders into fellowship with positive recommendations, often without waiting for years to ensure that the new person is as anointed as the leader had suspected. Yes, guidance by the Holy Spirit and courage will be needed, but MBB small groups and churches will not grow as God intends in Muslim contexts unless MBB leaders chose to lead with a heart of encouragement.
Keywords: Encouragement, Barnabas, persecution, discernment, choosing leaders, MBB