I love the smell of the New Testament – brothers and sisters, dear friends on mission together. The Jerusalem council letter has gone down well in Antioch and there is freedom for the Gospel to spread and churches to be planted.
Paul and Barnabas decide to visit the church plants to see how they are, v.36, and strengthen them, v.41. Visiting church plants in distant outposts has a priceless value! The encouragement gained mutually by visiting friends and strengthening them as they plant helps the mission. A few weekends ago I took a small team on a trip to Stockholm and Helsinki – there was much food and laughter, prayer and prophecy in each setting and on the journey. That is what Relational Mission is all about!
Uncomfortably in this passage, a sharp disagreement blows up between Paul and Barnabas over Mark. Barnabas and Mark are cousins (Col 4:10) and back in Acts 13:13, Mark had let Paul down and returned to Jerusalem early. Barnabas, a nickname meaning “Son of encouragement”, is patient with failure and willing to take Mark along again, but Paul isn’t. The sharp disagreement splits the team in two.
Before this run in, Barnabas had sided with Peter in allowing Judaisers to influence them to not eat with Gentile believers. Both sides get it wrong at points! No-one is perfect and we all have blind spots! In the end Mark will come good and write a Gospel – could it be that Barnabas’ encouragement got him back on track? On the other side of the coin, Barnabas’ encouraging heart compromised the gospel and the mission by allowing Judaisers to bring error in. That rightly earned a sharp rebuke from Paul. Paul is so single minded about the Gospel that the emotions and opinions of others won’t sway him – Galatians 1:8,10. I like both traits! Perhaps we need a mix of both, the radical middle!!!
What are today’s takeaways?
1) Be an encourager and be single minded for the Gospel and the mission.
2) How can you get involved with encouraging church plants? Pray, come on a trip, help us to help launch a plant next year – most likely Munich, but possibly Malaga!