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Biblical Support

Barnabas—A Model Mentor

Barnabas’s example serves as a textbook case in kingdom-style mentoring. This model mentor…

  • Befriended Saul (Paul) as a new believer (Acts 9:26–27).
  • Recruited a forgotten Saul from his home in Tarsus to help him stabilize a new group of multiethnic believers at Antioch, a year-long project (Acts 11:25–26).
  • Helped organize an international team of leaders in prayer, fasting, and decision-making. Result: he launched out with Paul to bring the gospel to peoples in the western empire (Acts 13:1–3).
  • Moved Paul to the forefront of leadership. “Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 13:7) became “Paul and his party” (Acts 13:13).
  • Contended with ethnic hostility, personal attacks, and idol worship (Acts 13:46–14:20).
  • Resisted well-meaning but misguided attempts at Lystra to make him and Paul into gods of Greek culture (Acts 14:8–18).
  • Took the lead with Paul in defending Gentile believers before the Jerusalem church council (Acts 15:1–4, 12).
  • Stood up to Paul over a negative assessment of young John Mark (Acts 15:36–38). Notice: Encouragers like Barnabas need not avoid conflict.
  • Gave John Mark a second chance, taking him with him to Cyprus (Acts 15:39). He was vindicated several years later when Paul described John Mark as “useful to me for ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11).

Mentoring, Kingdom-style

Paul describes the powerful process of mentoring in 2 Timothy 2:2. Just as he had helped Timothy during a formative stage in his development, he challenged Timothy to mentor others, who in turn could become mentors and keep the reproductive cycle going. Christians today need to recover this pattern of older believers working with younger ones, which dates to the earliest days of the faith. Here are a few examples from the New Testament:

Priscilla and Aquila with Apollos. Manufacturers of mobile living units (tents), Priscilla and Aquila drew alongside gifted but confused Apollos, tutoring him in the faith and then sponsoring his ministry (Acts 18:1–3, 24–28).

Paul with Timothy. Pioneering leader Paul recruited young Timothy and built on the foundation laid by the young man’s mother and grandmother (2 Tim. 1:5). Enlisting him as a fellow-traveler and tutoring him in the faith, Paul guided him in his first major assignment, the multiethnic start-up at Ephesus (Acts 16:1–3; Phil. 2:19–23; 2 Tim. 1–4).

Paul with Philemon. Paul helped Philemon, a wealthy leader in Colosse, deal with a runaway slave who had broken the law. He recommended full acceptance—even as a brother in the family—rather than insisting on the usual retribution.

[1]Thomas Nelson Publishers: What Does the Bible Say About– : The Ultimate A to Z Resource Fully Illustrated. Nashville, Tenn. : Thomas Nelson, 2001 (Nelson’s A to Z Series), S. 260

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