September 3, 2006
12th Sunday of Pentecost
"Be A Barnabas"
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
Years ago, in Reader's Digest, I remember reading about a soldier, Corporal Jones, who after his tour of duty overseas was sent to a stateside induction center where he advised new recruits about their government benefits, especially GI insurance. It didn't take long for him to have the best sales record, not just in the area, but in the national, almost 100%. His officers in his chain of command were amazed.
Rather than ask him how he did it, one of the officers stood in the back of the room one day and listened to Jones' sales pitch. Jones explained the basics of GI insurance to the new recruits and then said, "If you have GI insurance, and go into battle and are killed the government has to pay $35,000 to your beneficiaries. If you don't have GI insurance, and go into battle and are killed, the government has to pay only a maximum of $3000."
He concluded, "Now which bunch do you think they are going to be sent into battle first?"
We all need motivation from time to time, don't we. Well, this morning we begin a new series titled "Reaching Out Without Passing Out." Our first call, our marching orders, so to speak, are really quite simple and perfectly clear. You know them: They were Jesus last words and you could probably recite them by heart. Matthew 28:19-20 "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
That's what we're called to do. First and foremost, we're called to spread the Good News. Tell the story. Tell our story. Evangelize. Reach Out. However you want to put it. But whenever we start talking about it people freeze and freak. So I want us to look at some ways of "Reaching Out Without Passing Out."
God created us to be in community, to be in relationship with God and one another. And one of the things people in community and people who are family do, encourage one another. You'd be surprised how much motivation comes from simply getting a little encouragement.
And that brings us to the person who is the inspiration behind today's sermon. Barnabas. Let's look at the passage from Acts 4:33-37
A. His name was really Joseph. Barnabas was a nickname given to him by the Apostles and the Christian community. In the passage we learn that Barnabas means "Son of encouragement." He was a blessing wherever he went. And everyone recognized that. And it held true in all of his life and ministry.
As we read further in Acts, we see Barnabas was the one who introduced Paul to the Apostles in Jerusalem when they didn't want to have anything to do with him. Paul was the great persecutor. But Barnabas had heard Paul preach Jesus with great power while in Damascus. Barnabas used his status and influence to tell Paul's story and tear down the walls of suspicion, so Paul could be accepted. AND so the early church could hear and be touched by the power of Paul's preaching.
And if any introduction ever paid off. It was this one. We all know how incredibly successful Paul was in spreading the Gospel and starting churches.
Barnabas also accompanied Paul on several Missionary journeys.
Acts 11 recounts how people in Antioch began to believe and Barnabas was sent to help them get a church started. Verses 23-24 read: "When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord.
B. So, what can we learn from Barnabas. We have to remember that Evangelism isn't about us. It isn't about how we feel. It isn't about our comfort. It's about Good News that God has for people who don't know God's love. It's Good News. That means it's encouraging news. And if anything, what we learn from Barnabas is that we can all be Sons and Daughters of encouragement.
We can be practicing Evangelists even while we sit in our chairs on Sunday morning. We can "Reach Out Without Passing Out." Want to know how? I'm glad you asked that questions.
A. Barnabas Cards: Today I want to introduce something I've used in several churches. It's been so long that I don't remember whether it was my idea or someone else's. All I know is it works.
They're called Barnabas Cards. One of the things Paul writes in Hebrews is "And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds." Hebrews 10:25. And that's exactly what these cards are designed to do. And here's how they work.
Suppose the music was particularly moving or a hymn we sang touched you and lifted your spirits. Or maybe you've noticed that someone hasn't been here in awhile and you've thought to yourself, I need to call them. Or maybe you have friend who we lifted in prayer or there is someone in the church who needs to know you prayed for them. You simply pick up one of these Barnabas Cards. Write your note, address it and drop it in the offering plate. Monday morning, Michelle will mail them out.
Make sure you put the address on there, especially for folks whose address we might not have.
Now isn't that a simple way of expressing your love for Christ and your love for that person. And just think what an impact it will have on someone who isn't attending, if you send them a card saying, "God brought you to mind Sunday while I was at church, so I said a little prayer asking God to bless you and your family. We'd love to have you join us some Sunday as our guests."
Bam. You've been a Barnabas and an Evangelist all with the flick of a pen.
B. FRAN: Another way to be a Barnabas is by remembering FRAN. I know you're thinking FRAN whose that. It's an acronym which stands for that circle of family and acquaintances to whom you can write. FRAN stands for: Friends, Relatives, Acquaintances and Neighbors.
You can be a Barnabas by sending Friends, Relatives, Acquaintances and Neighbors a note of encouragement and adding an invitation for them to worship with you. It's almost too easy isn't it.
C. Clip: You can also be a Barnabas simply by remembering that no matter where you go, Christ goes with you. Through the power and presence of God's Holy Spirit, Jesus is your constant companion. All you have to do is show it in all you do. It's not enough to claim to be a Christian if your lifestyle and actions say the opposite.
The 5th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy is just around the corner and I ran across a story that I think really sums up what being a Barnabas is all about.
[Show Clip - "Bob Appleby" promo for "The Cross and The Towers" documentary]
Being a Barnabas, is a non-threatening way of being the Christ for others. It's standing vigilance. It's the pat on the back. It's that 2 second prayer of encouragement which simply says, "Don't forget, God loves you, God is with you." It's a gentle reminder that we can all give.
Being a Barnabas is also about living an inviting lifestyle. I may have already told this story before, I don't remember. But the story was told by the wife. It illustrates the spirit of being a Barnabas.
"My husband is a tractor-trailer driver and he dreads runs to New York City. His greatest fear was realized one day when his rig broke down on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. At 4:30 p.m., after he had been waiting for assistance for over an hour, a police car stopped and the officer called a tow truck for my husband.
More hours passed. Then at 8:30 a young man stopped his car and walked over to the truck. He handed my husband a white bag with the familiar golden arches and said, 'I saw you here about four o'clock, and I saw that you were still here when I went by again a half-hour ago. I thought you might be hungry by now.' With that he gave my husband the bag and drove away. The tow truck got there a little before 10 p.m." (1)
The Dave Matthews Band has a song and in the lyrics they sing, "I'll lean on you and you lean on me and we'll be okay." That's the spirit of being a Barnabas. That's the spirit of being a Son or Daughter of encouragement. And when we live like that, it changes lives.
There was a certain downtown businessman became fond of the little boy who shined his shoes every day. He did such a good job that one day the businessman asked him, "Son, you always do a great job. How come you are so conscientious about your work?" The boy beamed after being complimented. He looked up to the man, and said, "Mister, I'm a Christian and I try to shine every pair of shoes as if Jesus Christ were wearing them."
That businessman saw something genuine in that shoeshine boy. It wasn't long after that conversation that the businessman began reading his Bible. Which lead eventually to his accepting Christ. When he made that decision and was baptized, he credited his decision to the little boy who shined every pair of shoes "as if Jesus Christ were wearing them." (2)
That's how we're supposed to live. We're called to be like Barnabas and be Sons and Daughters of Encouragement. And that encouragement is needed. There are so many people whose outlook on life is negative. They've been wounded or alienated. There are folks who think no one cares, not even God.
There are folks who are consumed with guilt and they don't know where to turn.
You and I have great news. We have the Good News of a God who is loving and forgiving. We have the Good News of Savior who can give us meaning and purpose in life. We have the Good News. But how will others hear it if we don't share it and be encouragers.
Be a Barnabas. Be a Son of Daughter of Encouragement.
1. Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), August 1982
2. Charles R. Leary, Mission Ready!, CSS Publishing Company.
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