Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Encouragement - Barnabas - Stepping Aside

We've already looked at three elements of Barnabas's gift of encouragement - practical acts, first chances and second chances. I want to finish with a fourth, which was his willingness to step aside in order for someone else's gifting to develop and flourish.

I don't know if you've ever noticed it, but where we have pairs of names the order of the names is often important. Normally we put the name of the more important, or more significant person, first. So for instance we talk about "Cameron and Clegg", "Moses and Aaron" and "Ant and Dec" (OK that last one doesn't work, but you get the idea!).

This sometimes gives an interesting insight into what is going on. So to take the example of a couple called "Priscilla and Aquilla" from the book of Acts. Commentators say that the order of their names is interesting because normally the man's name would be first, so Priscilla being named before her husband suggests that she had the more prominent ministry position within their  relationship.

A similar study of Paul and Barnabas is very interesting. Up until Acts 13 it's always been "Barnabas and Saul" whenever their names go together, and Barnabas seems to take the lead as they minister together. But then in Acts 13 Paul produces a barnstorming preach (starting at verse 16), and from then on it becomes "Paul and Barnabas" whenever they are mentioned together. Something changes in the dynamic of their ministry, to such an extent that when they part ways over the question of what to do with Mark, we never hear of Barnabas or his ministry again.

So often people end up getting their worth and their value from what they do, from their ministry, their job title or the platforms they get to stand on. People like that find it very hard when they end up stepping aside to let others take on their ministry, or even more so when a leader over them asks them to step aside. For me one of the greatest marks of maturity of a Christian is not how you respond when someone ask you to start doing something, but how you respond when they ask you to stop! That's so often when people throw all their toys out of the pram, leave churches, wreck relationships and seek to destroy what they've built.

One of the joys for me of leading Kerith is that Ben Davies has been such a remarkable Barnabas in my life. John Burke and James Emery White both commented to me last week that it is almost unprecedented that Ben, who lead Kerith for 43 years, can still be a part of the church without us falling out. That is largely down to the Barnabas gift of encouragement God has put in to Ben, and his amazing ability to continue to be one of my biggest cheerleaders, supporters, advisors and friends in a season when it might now be "Simon and Ben" rather than "Ben and Simon".

I pray that you and I might have the same spirit that Ben demonstrates. We are all one day going to be in a position where we have to hand our "baby" on to someone else, whether that is our decision or someone else makes the decision for us. Let's choose to handle that like a Barnabas, rather than like an Old Testament Saul who fought the new leader, David, every step of the way.


1 comment:

Sandra said...

Simon I think you need to take more credit for the success of your succession to Ben. Indeed Ben has been a great Barnabas. Ben is rooted in God and is completely confident in his own identity in God. But also you have shown Ben respect and complete inclusion in your leadership.
All too often when we have to move on from roles we are insecure in who we are and what we are meant to do next. As well as that we can feel isolated and not part of what's happening anymore.
A successful stepping aside needs to have both elements working my humble opinion of course!!