I am a firm believer that growth needs to be intentional; and when it comes to discipleship growth is also relational.  In today’s blog I want to discuss how your Christian maturity can be developed internationally and relationally.

Peer to peer relationships are very helpful in professional and personal development.  The benefit of these relationships is a sharing of knowledge, mutual encouragement, sharing of common goals, accountability, and the camaraderie (or in the case of Christian relationships – fellowship or partnering one with another for the purpose of serving a common Lord).  My closest relationships fall within this category.  The Biblical example of this kind of relationship is the one shared by Paul and Barnabas.

Paul and Barnabas had a much different relationship than Paul and Timothy.  It appears that at first Barnabas discipled Paul and then at some point they became equals in ministry and served together for a while.  They had what I like to call a peer to peer discipleship relationship. I would like to suggest you develop some peer to peer discipleship relationships. 

Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.  (Proverbs 27:17, NASB)

Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.  (Acts 4:36, NASB)

We are introduced to a man who is poor in spirit named Barnabas, in a little passage about the early church sharing with and helping each other with their resources.  Barnabas sold some land and gave the money to the apostles to distribute as needed for the ministry.  Barnabas shows that he is truly sold out for the Lord, giving all to the ministry.  We also are told that his gifting is that of encouragement due to the Joseph’s nickname they gave him of Barnabas.  I am blessed to have a Barnabas in my life that is there to encourage me when I am down (which is more often than it should be).  This disciple, Barnabas, was used in missionary work and worked alongside Paul, encouraging him in the difficulties they faced in their ministry.  A great team in the kingdom was born out of different gifts but the desire to be committed for the Christ and His gospel.

When he (Paul) came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.  But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.  (Acts 9:26-27, NASB)

Sometime after Paul’s conversion he tried to join the disciples in Jerusalem, but his past led to trepidation for the disciples.  Barnabas knew Paul in some manner because he comes to his aid.  Tradition holds that Barnabas was used to disciple Paul in the ways of Christ.  We don’t know that for certain but they had an early association nonetheless.  Barnabas’ defense of Paul was successful and the rest is history.  In a good peer to peer discipleship relationship the peers hold each other accountable and also intercede for them in prayer, or in Barnabas’ case here, in actions.  Find a Barnabas in your life and be truly blessed.

The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas off to Antioch.  Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.  And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.

And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch.  And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.  (Acts 11:22-26, NASB)

The early Church was expanding both geographically and culturally as Gentiles were being added to the Church.  The Church needed to send a delegation northward and it sent Barnabas to Antioch, which became the missionary headquarters for both Barnabas and Paul.  When Barnabas arrived he used his gift of encouragement to tell the believers there to keep their purpose of heart and to continue in the Lord.  I love the description of Barnabas: he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.  If that could be said of us we will become the material a disciple used of God can be formed from.  Barnabas calls Paul to come serve with him.  It can be assumed that Barnabas is still training the young star in ministry, or at a minimum gave Paul the opportunity to be part of the ministry to the disciples in Antioch.  Barnabas and Paul taught many in a whole year and the believers are called disciples in this passage so discipleship was prevalent.  Disciples replicate other disciples – that is how it should be done. 

Pray about and find a Barnabas in your life.