Who are you encouraging?

When Barnabas arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. (Acts 11:23)

Nine years ago on Labor Day weekend 2013, NewLife joined together with First Church, Wethersfield Evangelical Free Church, and Center Point Church for the first Cove service. This coming Sunday, we will join together once again as one body of believers, one family of God, to worship our great God.

The vision for the Cove service was borne out of a biweekly pastors’ group that I was a part of under the umbrella of Barnabas Ministries, a ministry that started in Hopkinton, Massachusetts that wanted to bring pastors from different denominational backgrounds into authentic spiritual and relational unity. My Barnabas group has been an integral part of my spiritual and emotional health over the past twelve years since I first got connected. Not only have I received the ongoing encouragement and wisdom of local pastors, but I have also been able to overcome my natural tendency towards comparing myself to other pastors and churches and instead love and support my fellow pastors without giving into an unhealthy competitive spirit.

Last month, I preached a sermon on Barnabas, the first century Christian who the ministry is named after. Barnabas was known as “the son of encouragement,” and in Acts 11:19-26, we see him encouraging the believers in Antioch to “remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” Even more importantly, he played a major part in Paul’s development, helping the disciples in Jerusalem trust the newly converted Paul in Acts 9:26-28, and then enlisting in Paul in ministry with him in Antioch in Acts 11:23-26. There may never have been an Apostle Paul as we know him without the encouragement of Barnabas.

The Greek word for encouragement is parakaleo, which roughly translates as coming alongside another person or group of people in order to help them become the person or people God has called them to be. This is what Barnabas does with Paul, and what he does with the church of Antioch. It is what my pastor friends have done in my life as well.
The truth is that most of us suffer from imposter syndrome. We don’t believe that we belong, or that we have what it takes to be successful at what we are doing or what we want to do. Given our self-doubts, there are few things more encouraging than having someone point out the evidence of God’s work in our life, seeing the good in us and speaking over us words of belief in who God has created us to be.
Life is hard, and we all need encouragers. We all need someone who comes alongside us and helps us become the person God has called us to be. Consider who God has brought into your life. Where can you take the time today to be a Barnabas for another person? Who can you come alongside and encourage to become all that God has created them to be?

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