Paul and Barnabas
Barnabas and Paul walked together because Barnabas went and got Paul when no one else had a level of trust in Paul’s salvation experience. They walked together for years, it seems, and when they ministered together as representatives of the Jerusalem Ecclesia and council of apostolic leaders, they were on the same page. However, their contrasting gift mixes and mindset on pioneering separated them when they argued about John Mark’s preparedness.
John Mark had started a previous trip as an emerging leader only to bomb out and run home (Paul’s view) when things got tough and he got homesick or whatever. So, Paul says, “Nope, he ain’t going.” Barnabas says, “He’s ready this time.” The disagreement ran so deep that they ceased traveling together, and Barnabas basically disappears from the historical account as Luke follows Paul.
The contrast between Paul the pioneer and Barnabas the son of consolation serves to show us a helpful insight in the contrast of ministry with and without a pioneering priority. Paul makes decisions based upon pioneering readiness. Barnabas makes decisions ignoring the price of pioneering preparedness. Paul continues to pioneer and Luke follows the pioneering spirit to continue the history of the Acts of Holy Spirit.
Are we not left with the understanding that the Acts of Holy Spirit follow a pioneering spirit?
Paul asks Barnabas to accompany him on another journey, but Barnabas says he wishes to take John Mark with them. Paul thought it was not good to take John Mark because John Mark had withdrawn or revolted – the word can mean either – on a previous journey. The context seems to point to Paul having a good reason for this attitude and having the support of the brothers in his stance: “being commended to the grace of God by the brothers.” Barnabas is said simply to have set sail for Cyprus.
In any case, the measurement of Paul’s motivation is best made with a pioneering spirit in mind. With some literary license we could contrast Barnabas with that pioneering spirit in the sense that he isn’t motivated as completely by a sense of assignment as Paul. Barnabas has acquired a priority inconsistent with the pioneering spirit.
Barnabas has a long and storied history of consolation within the Ecclesia, and is the consoler of Paul in his rejection by the Ecclesia early on after his experience with Jesus. Yet, Barnabas responds to John Mark’s rebellion or weakness, whichever you choose to apply to the situation or both, with a misplaced consolation.
Simply put, when it comes to pioneering, you are either ready or you are not, and it is unfair to everyone including you if we include you in the pioneering activities when you are not “pioneer ready” material.
Later, Paul would say that John Mark is profitable to him for ministry, another way of saying that John Mark matured to the point of being able to function with pioneering as a priority.
Barnabas is the name given Joseph after he gives a really strong gift to the Ecclesia in the early days. The name is explained by interpretation: “son of consolation.” The term used is paraklesis, with the idea of being the son of exhortation and comfort, or a sense of producing by word or action a sense of encouragement for others to do the same thing.
The long and short of it: pioneering is for prepared leaders measured and tested by word and behavior. Quitters can’t go. If they do quit on the journey, their places are empty and everyone else has to pick up the load left by their empty places. These are people who haven’t come to the priority of assignment that says “all in.”
Understand the risk and reward of pioneering means that it may cost you everything and you get no return on investment. Understand that you may win and receive abundant return on investment. The risk and reward is great both directions.
John Mark was ready for abundant reward but not ready for abundant risk. He wanted the sure thing: “wherever I go and whomever I’m with, I deserve what I want.” Such a person “along for the ride” would never make it in a pioneering camp! Barnabas was willing to weaken the assignment with drama and distraction that Paul understood would be a fatal flaw to the mission.