Putting Together a Church-planting Team? Look to Barnabas
by J. D. Payne
A biblical examination of eight aspects from the life of Barnabas for church-planting teams.
I want to challenge you to look at Barnabas in a different light—one in which he is understood as a model for contemporary church planters, complementing what we have already learned from the model of Paul. The following is a biblical examination of eight “Barnabas Factors”—aspects from the life of Barnabas that should be present in your church-planting team members.
Although these factors are not exclusive to Barnabas, they do offer us a fresh and significant perspective when it comes to critical characteristics that should not be taken for granted. This article concludes with an assessment guide to assist in selecting team members based upon the factors.
Factor 1: Walks with the Lord
Barnabas was sold out to Jesus. Walking uprightly with the Lord enabled him to know how to live in relation to God, other team members, and unbelievers. It is most unlikely that the Holy Spirit would have ordered Paul and Barnabas to be set apart (Acts 13:2-3) if they did not walk faithfully with the Lord. Such a lifestyle allowed the Spirit to work through them to accomplish the miraculous.
Barnabas’ godly lifestyle made him loveable (Acts 15:25), trustworthy and reliable (Acts 11:28-30), and able to manifest an attitude of encouragement—thus, giving him the name “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 11:23). His walk with the Lord gave him wisdom to know how to engage unbelievers (Acts 1:8; 11:24), boldness for evangelism (Acts 13:45-46), and perseverance when faced with discouragement and persecution (Acts 13:50-51).
Factor 2: Maintains an Outstanding Character
Other believers recognized his outstanding character. Luke noted that he was “a good person, full of the Holy Spirit, and full of faith.” He was so well respected by the apostles in Jerusalem that they had no problem extending to him the “right hand of fellowship” (Gal. 2:9). He was also recognized as one who should represent the Jerusalem Church while investigating the birth and growth of the Antioch Church (Acts 11:22). The Antioch Church also recognized his outstanding character when they trusted him and Paul to carry an offering to the Jerusalem Church to assist with the famine relief (Acts 11:27-29). In Lystra, he and Paul could have avoided persecution by acting as if they were Zeus and Hermes (Acts 14:10-13), but they refused to take glory away from the Lord. When the Jerusalem Council gathered to debate the necessity of circumcision for salvation, the entire assembly paid close attention to the words of Barnabas and Paul (Acts 15:12). These two men not only were influential regarding the outcome of the meeting, they were also selected to represent the Council in Antioch (Acts 15:22), being referred to as “beloved” men (Acts 15:25-26).
Factor 3: Serves the Local Church
Barnabas had an excellent track record of serving the local church. In addition to his encouragement, he also served the church through his participation and submission. Of all the members of the Jerusalem Church, Luke singled him out and introduced him as the Son of Encouragement, who sold his tract of land and gave the proceeds to the apostles to distribute to the needy (Acts 4:32-37). Long before he was serving as a church planter, he was setting the example of a faithful and sacrificial church member. He also submitted to the church’s desire to send him to Antioch following the birth of the church in that city (Acts 11:19-23). Such an act on his part would have demanded great sacrifice of personal security, money (for travel), and time.
Factor 4: Remains Faithful to the Call
Barnabas was given numerous reasons to abandon his ministry. He experienced opposition by Elymas (Acts 13:8) and persecution by the Jews (Acts 13:45, 50). After he and Paul arrived in Iconium, they soon found themselves the target of a group of citizens desiring to stone them (Acts 14:5). Later in Lystra, he witnessed the stoning of Paul (Acts 14:20). In spite of all the verbal and physical abuse for the sake of the gospel, Barnabas remained faithful to his calling. He continued on the missionary journey with Paul, and after their separation even led a second missionary journey with John Mark (Acts 15:39).
Factor 5: Shares the Gospel Regularly
Barnabas was intentional and verbal in his evangelism. He and Paul lived according to a definition that biblical church planting is evangelism that results in new churches (Acts 14:21-23). It is not a coincidence that just after Luke noted that Barnabas was a “good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith,” he recorded that in Antioch, “considerable numbers were brought to the Lord” (Acts 11:24). Five points must be made here.
1. Barnabas’ evangelism was done with intentionality. He and Paul did not wait for opportunities to verbally share the gospel, but rather sought out such opportunities in every city they entered.
2. Barnabas’ evangelism was done with boldness. Luke recorded while in Antioch of Pisidia, “Then Paul and Barnabas boldly said, ‘It was necessary that God’s message be spoken to you first’” (Acts 13:46).
3. Barnabas’ evangelism was done with tenacity. After experiencing opposition and persecution in Antioch of Pisidia and Iconium, he and Paul fled to the towns of Lystra and Derbe (Acts 14:6). Instead of cowering in fear, Luke wrote, “…and there they continued to preach the gospel” (Acts 14:7).
4. Barnabas’ evangelism was done with a preference toward receptive people. Although the labors of this church-planting team was to take the gospel first to the Jew and then to the Gentile, Barnabas and Paul were not slow to depart from unreceptive areas. Again, turning our attention to Antioch of Pisidia, when they were expelled from the district they, shook the dust off of their feet against the people and traveled to Iconium (Acts 13:51).
5. Barnabas’ evangelism was done with a follow-up orientation. An examination of the work of Barnabas and Paul on the first missionary journey (Acts 13-14) reveals that these men did not conceive of fulfilling the Great Commission as making converts, but rather making disciples. The gathering of the new believers together into local churches and appointing elders over them is additional evidence for this fact (Acts 14:21-23).
Factor 6: Raises Up Leaders
Barnabas saw the potential in others to become leaders in the kingdom. With Stephen’s death and Saul’s rampage still fresh in the minds of the Jerusalem Church, no one was willing to accept Saul into the fellowship after his conversion. Barnabas, however, took a calculated risk and reached out to him, brought him to the apostles, and vouched for his changed life (Acts 9:27). Barnabas’ actions resulted in the church embracing Saul (Acts 9:28). Also, after observing the great work of the Spirit in Antioch, Barnabas decided to locate Saul in Tarsus and bring him to Antioch to help in building up the church (Acts 11:25-26). Barnabas was willing to take a chance with Paul as a leader.
Barnabas was also willing to extend a second chance to John Mark. Even when Paul was not willing to give John Mark a second chance (Acts 15:37-38), Barnabas saw potential in this young leader and took him to minister in Cyprus (Acts 15:39). We later learn from Paul’s letters that his attitude became more favorable toward John Mark (Col. 4:10; 2 Tim. 4:11; Phile. 24). I like to think that John Mark’s time with Barnabas on his second missionary journey assisted him in his growth as a leader, which contributed to a change in Paul’s attitude. In addition to Barnabas’ influence on the leadership development in the lives of Paul and John Mark, he was active in leadership development by appointing leaders over the newly-planted churches (Acts 14:23).
Factor 7: Encourages with Speech and Actions
One of the first things that usually comes to mind when we think of Barnabas is that he was an encourager. In fact, we often speak of a person who has significantly supported or encouraged our ministries as being a “Barnabas” to us. Clearly, Barnabas encouraged with both his words and deeds. His actions were substantial, sacrificial, helpful, and exemplary among the Apostolic Church. In addition to selling his property for the church (Acts 4:37), he also gave up comfort and safety when he traveled to Antioch (Acts 11:22), where he remained an entire year (Acts 11:26) to help the new church, and traveled a multitude of miles on his journeys for the kingdom.
Factor 8: Responds Appropriately to Conflict
Barnabas experienced conflict with Paul on at least two occasions. The first occurrence was related to the John Mark incident (Acts 15:36-40). Following the conflict, he and Paul each began a second missionary journey, with Barnabas taking his cousin, John Mark, and Paul teaming up with Silas. Although Luke recorded that the two men had a “sharp disagreement” (Acts 15:39), he did not attempt to attribute the division to either the sin of Paul or of Barnabas. The only exceptional note he recorded was that Paul and Silas were “committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord” (Acts 15:40).
The second occurrence of conflict clearly revealed that sin manifested itself in Barnabas’ life. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he mentioned his conflict with Peter regarding his hypocrisy (Gal. 2:11-13), and illustrated the severity of the matter by including that “even” Barnabas was led astray by the hypocritical actions (Gal. 2:13). Although we do not know the details of this matter regarding Paul’s encounter with Barnabas, obviously such sin in the life of Paul’s former traveling companion created such conflict in his heart that he felt it was worthy of mention.
In this article, I have pointed to Barnabas as a healthy model for contemporary missionaries. Since I believe it is helpful for missionaries to have a tool to assist them with the selection and development of church-planting teams, I have included a subjective guide to help meet this need (see below).
✯ ✯ ✯ ✯ ✯
Please note this is simply a guide to assist you in team development. Your evaluation of an individual is subjective. However, since you are the team leader, your subjectivity is important. Make prayer a priority. The best way to assess a person in light of these factors is to be in community with the individual over a period of time. If this is unlikely, evaluate the individual and speak to someone who has been in community with the person. If neither of these two are an option, then a prayerful, extended period of conversation with the candidate is another route.
On the following scale, rank each candidate in light of each Barnabas Factor:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
The following are some questions to help you with your evaluation:
Factor #1: Walks with the Lord
• Is this person loveable, wise, trustworthy, and reliable?
• Does this person have a good attitude about God, life, and serving on this team?
• Can this person provide a clear, verbal testimony of a conversion experience?
• Does this person persevere during difficult times?
Factor #2: Maintains an Outstanding Character
• Does this person have good speech, a gentle spirit, and is he or she faith-filled?
• Does this person manifest good actions and the fruit of the Spirit?
• Does this person trust God for his or her provisions and plans?
• Does this person rob God of his glory?
• Does this person truly trust God to do the impossible?
Factor #3: Serves in the Local Church
• Is this person an active member of a local church?
• Is this person passionate about the local church and use his or her gifts to build up the church?
• Does this person work alone or does he or she exhibit servant leadership and is a team player?
• Does this person make sacrifices for his or her church and submit to the leaders of that church?
Factor #4: Remains Faithful to the Call
• Is this person faithful to the Lord and committed to the Great Commission?
• Will this person be faithful to the team?
• Does this person have a clear call that is similar to that of the team?
• Will this person remain faithful to his or her calling, even if not invited to serve on the team?
Factor #5: Shares the Gospel Regularly
• Does this person have a history of regularly sharing the gospel?
• Is this person intentional and zealous in his or her evangelism?
• Does this person desire to make disciples and not just converts?
• Can this person verbally share a clear and concise gospel presentation?
• Does this person share the gospel even when people are not receptive?
Factor #6: Raises Up Leaders
• Does this person have a mindset to multiply leaders?
• Does this person take wise and strategic risks?
• Is this person’s attitude and lifestyle a good example for new believers?
• Is this person willing to grow as a leader?
• Does this person want to spend most of his or her time working with a few leaders rather than with the crowds?
Factor #7: Encourages with Speech and Actions
• Does this person speak the truth?
• Does this person encourage others with both speech and action?
• Is this person helpful?
Factor #8: Responds Appropriately to Conflict
• Does this person have a healthy understanding of conflict?
• Does this person respond in love when wronged by others?
• Does this person hold grudges?
• Does this person exhibit love, humility, and a Christ-like attitude during times of conflict?
• Does this person have unresolved conflict in his or her life?
1. Adapted here from Appendix Two in The Barnabas Factors: Eight Essential Practices of Church Planting Team Members.
Payne, J.D. 2008. The Barnabas Factors: Eight Essential Practices of Church Planting Team Members. Smyrna, Del.: Missional Press.
J. D. Payne is a national missionary with the North American Mission Board and associate professor of church planting and evangelism at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is author of The Barnabas Factors: Eight Essential Practices of Church Planting Team Members and blogs at www.jdpayne.org.
EMQ, Vol. 46, No. 4, pp. 434-439. Copyright © 2010 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.