Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowds to their side. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead. But as the believers gathered around him, he got up and went back into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe. After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God. Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and with prayer and fasting committed them to the Lord, in whom they put their trust.Acts 14:19-23
How could Paul and Barnabas appoint elders in every church when they didn’t really know the people and didn’t belong to the church or have authority there?
It is an interesting question that I see a number of you grappled with since I threw the challenge to you. Some people find it valuable when I do that to you and some people find it frustrating. Whatever comes your way in life make the most of it and learn from it . One reader who is on his way to a mission trip just had to send off his response to me almost before he walked out the door. He believes Paul and Barnabas appointed those most capable to lead the new believers in the faith by seeking God’s guidance through prayer and by discussing the matter with those in authority, those most suitable for the task. Leaders of course often show themselves in any group by taking the lead on issues. Interesting isn’t it? While true it indicates that Paul and Barnabas stayed longer in these places than Luke tells us specifically. There are many times that we get a one liner from Luke, behind which are other events he has not bothered to tell us about in detail. Once again I say, Luke is choosing and arranging his material to suit his theme, even in the Book of Acts just as he did in his gospel. He is not giving us a blow by blow account set in chronological order with all the detail. Some elements he just simply omits.
Luke’s statement: The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe. After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, where they strengthened the believers. This statement is filled with implicit information. He must have spent a long time in Derbe and encouraged them too before he and Barnabas left them. Then he returns again to Lystra. Interesting, were the antagonists from Antioch and Iconium? Did they follow Paul and Barnabas to Derbe? It seems not, because there is no mention of the opposition there and that is one of the elements Luke focuses on. Tracking the nature and response of the opposition. We don’t need to pay much attention to the opposition in terms of allowing them to frighten us but we should keep an eye on them and be aware of their changing strategies. But notice how quickly they fade to the background again. I wonder if the remarkable resurrection of Paul in Lystra put them off their stride. I wonder if they thought how can we defeat these guys. We don’t hear about them again on this leg of the trip. What happened when Paul and Barnabas reached Iconium again and then went back to Antioch in Pisidia? Seemingly nothing even though Paul and Barnabas are back in their home town or city. They do nothing.
Now let’s return to the matter of appointing elders among a group you really don’t yet know. I agree that those destined for leaders show themselves in any group. They stand out by virtue of their willingness or tendency to take the lead. And besides they will be the ones speaking the most, but that doesn’t always mean to say the talkative people should be chosen. Still waters run deep so to speak. In the process of strengthening the believers Paul and Barnabas would have spotted those among the recipients who were intent on strengthening those around them as well. Helping and encouraging those who needed it. Remember that we are talking about Barnabas alongside of Paul. Barnabas the son of encouragement. Sometimes leadership is nothing more than being aware of another’s need and doing something to meet it. Solving the felt need and difficulties that others face will most often result in you being given a leadership among your peers. I will remind you again of my favourite business leadership quote. Leadership is the art of building people and making them successful. Leroy McGinnis. The people who do that stand out. I am sure the combination of Paul and Barnabas was a match made in heaven.
Don’t overlook the part God, through His Holy Spirit, played in all of them. I am sure the Holy Spirit was working behind the scenes to bring people to Paul and Barnabas’ notice. That has been what has happened to me over the years as I have put teams together. God brings the members of the team to your attention. Not only that remember too, Holy Spirit can also put His finger on a person or His light in much the same way He did for the crippled man in the crowd at Lystra. In all of these ways the natural leaders, the gifted speakers and those with leadership ability would have come to the fore. But more important are those who have a heart to serve and a willingness to serve people in need. Those who have an empathetic heart and are just plainly encouragers – you can bet Barnabas would have noticed those kinds of people. Men or women after his own heart. It takes one to know one.
At this point, I will close this Gem. I was going to go on to deal with the remaining questions or ponderings below but I think I will leave that for another day. I spent a little longer on this matter of appointing elders when you don’t really know the people than I intended. But what I do most often is just let God have control of the keyboard if you get what I mean. One more thing I probably need to comment on before I close and that is the issue of authority. At this stage in the development of the church authority was not yet institutionalized. It is not that authority has to be passed down from some mystical, powerful church board or ultimate authority on apostolic succession. The Holy Spirit of God is behind the issue of authority. Authority doesn’t come from what we do it comes from who we are and Whose we are. Think about it. Above all, note the last verse of this passage – It is the bearer of God’s message, the apostle or the missionary, who best understands in the first instance what is needed and who is most likely suited to role of fulfilling it. Thus the selection is made and sealed with prayer and fasting and then Paul and Barnabas move on and leave the elders to eld.
- I find it amazing Ian that we are reading all about this and you are experiencing it as you write in Jakarta. How can that be?
- I love how God uses you wherever you are. I want Him to use me like that. Tell me how it happens.
- Looks like the enemies of Christianity followed Paul and Barnabas and stirred up the crowd. Sounds like where you are Ian?
I will also look back through the Gems to determine whether there are any other questions that I have inadvertently left by the wayside. If you have asked a question and I have not yet addressed it, remind me.
Leadership is the art of building people and making them successful.Leroy McGinnis
Leadership is about adding value into people’s life.Jeffrey Rachmat
True leaders don’t choose the popular way, they make the right way popular. Leaders create consensus.Rick Warren
Most of us think wonderful things about people, but we never tell them. Praise becomes valuable only if you impart it. Go be a son or daughter of encouragement today.Ian Vail
The true goal of leadership is not to cross the finishing line first but to take as many others with you as you can.Bob Gass