“To see the Church strengthen every person so that they invest in the equipping others, through: serving sacrificially in every area of life.”
The sacrificial service of a Christian, pouring themselves into the life of another, for the advancement of God’s Kingdom, is highest form of discipleship. In the business world, the term to describe this activity is mentorship, where the experienced leader works directly with the novice to develop useful skills that advances the cause of the organization. Actually, mentoring is a biblical principle. Consider the example of Joseph, a Levite, from Cyprus, whom the Apostles called Barnabas, “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36). Barnabas probably did not get his nickname by slapping people on the back saying, “you can do this.” No, a nickname is affectionately awarded someone when their personality traits and actions reflect an attribution i.e., encouragement.
So, who did Barnabas mentor? The first person we see sponsored by Barnabas is none other than Saul of Tarsus, who tried to destroy the Church. Acts 9 describes the story of Saul’s conversion and subsequent joining in the church. The passage indicates that the Jerusalem church was not convinced that Saul was a Christ follower, and for good reason. Yet, Barnabas brought him to the apostles (v. 27), spoke on Saul’s behalf and in time, the church was at peace with Saul. Some time later, Saul and Barnabas were commissioned as a missionary team, sharing the gospel and encouraging believers as they traveled from place to place.
A quiet event occurred during the first journey that had great impact on the duo and reset Barnabas’ next major sponsorship. John Mark, one of the younger members of the team, deserts the work and returns home. As Paul and Barnabas plan their second missionary journey, John Mark wants to join back in but Paul wants no part of it. Barnabas had a decision to make, stay with Paul or begin a mentorship with John Mark. Barnabas choses the younger man and they sail to Cyprus (15:39) – that is not the end of the story; however. Eventually, we learn that John Mark is reunited with Paul in Rome (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24) and as Paul approaches the end of life, he requests that Timothy “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).
What can we learn from this? We should look for ways to be used of God in the caring of His people. Sometimes our discipleship commitments are short-term. Yet, there are times when we are called to step into the lives of our brothers and sisters for the long-term, helping them develop their spiritual skill sets, growing together in Christ. Long-term discipleship is not an evaluation of the church talent pool; it is a calling to invest in the equipping of others for the Glory of God.