Amongst our growing community here at Artists for Christ we may have some people with the heart of Paul – church planters, proclaimers, pioneers. We may have some people with the heart of Bezalel (Exodus 35:30 – 36:2) – wanting to prepare beautiful things for the Lord, creating physical art for reasons of worship and as a demonstration to others of God’s magnificence. We may have David’s and Asaph’s – anointed musicians and poets, forming masterful works of praise and celebration. But I hope and pray that in amongst all of these, we have some with the heart of Barnabus.
Barnabus only comes up a few times in the New Testament but is worthy of our attention. I want to highlight the two main passages in Acts that demonstrate his heart. Firstly, after Saul has had his amazing conversion on the road to Damascus (becoming Paul), he is healed and commissioned by Ananias, and then comes to Jerusalem. Acts 9:26 tells us that “he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple”. Stop for a minute. What could have happened next? Saul, the new believer in Christ could have become disheartened, and never come into fellowship with the other leaders of the early church. Now two important words in verse 27: “But Barnabus…”. Barnabus takes Saul, encourages him, and speaks to the disciples about all that God is doing in Saul’s life, how Saul has become a faithful witness. This is a pivotal moment in a pivotal life, and the encouragement by Barnabus is key.
Skip onto chapter 11. The first church in Antioch has been started, and it’s the first church that is formed of gentiles (non-Jews). This is another pivotal moment. The church leaders in Jerusalem are perhaps wary of what is happening, whether it is truly the work of the Holy Spirit – so they send Barnabus to check it out. Barnabus arrives and “saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts”. And so began the church of Antioch, the missionary sending base of the early church and the first place that Jesus-followers were called Christians. The key point of all of this: Barnabus was used by God for great and wonderful works through the encouragement he gave.
Friends, I think this is an area where we have to fight against the prevailing attitude of the world. Artists, writers and musicians in the secular world are often in fierce competition, trying to get “one-up” on each other. There is a slowness to encourage, as it might imply that others are better. Even encouragement given to one another can be empty, half-hearted, or with false motivation. Many of us are already on the right track in dealing with these issues, but I want to encourage us all to become a “Barnabus Community”.
What could this “Barnabus Community” look like? It could look like artists truly taking an interest in each other’s passions for what God is doing in them. It could look like creative people sometimes recommending other people above themselves, not because they’re lazy, but because they want to see others built up in their gifts. It could look like people laying down their desires to be centre stage, and learning how to rejoice in God being glorified, whoever is being used as the vessel.
It could look stunningly beautiful.