Painting 'The stoning of Paula and Barnabas' by Barent Fabritius, 1672 Painting ‘The stoning of Paula and Barnabas’ by Barent Fabritius, 1672

Remember Barnabas, Paul’s companion from the Book of Acts? Acts 11:24 says Barnabas ‘was a good man of great faith, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit.’ He and Paul did ministry together for a while, before they had a big falling out. But that’s not the point.

Do you know what his name means? Barnabas means ‘son of encouragement’. And if you carefully study Barnabas’ actions and words as recorded in the Bible, you’ll discover that Barnabas was aptly named. We see him encourage and exhort other believers at several points and in different ways.

The word ‘encouragement’ that’s connected with Barnabas’ name is the Greek word ‘paraklesis’ which can be translated in several ways:

  • Give courage in faith, encouragement
  • Exhortation, admonition
  • Strong request or appeal
  • Make someone feel better, give comfort and support


Barnabas does all this. He exhorts young believers to keep faith, to hold on despite persecution. His acceptance of Paul right after his conversion must have been a great encouragement to Paul, because none of the other believers wanted to have anything to do with him. Barnabas gave away his land, his money to support the church. Even the cause of the rift between Barnabas and Paul was because Barnabas wanted to give someone a second chance, because he believed in him. All in all, Barnabas was a huge source of encouragement for whatever church he was part of.

My question is this: do you have a Barnabas? Is there someone in your team, in your small group, in your support group who is like Barnabas to you? Do you have someone who encourages you when you’re down, who gives you a kick in the butt when you need one, who lovingly confronts you and helps you to hold on? Because you need someone like that.

There was an elderly lady in my old church who prayed for me fervently, with or without me being present. She often wrote me cards and notes to encourage me, to exhort me to keep going. She reminded me time and again of my calling, that I needed to let God work through me. She rejoiced with me over every good thing that was happening in the youth ministry and she prayed for every trouble that came our way. In short, she was my Barnabas. And knowing that she was praying for me, reading her words and feeling her support, it was a constant source of encouragement for me.

Do you have a Barnabas? Is there someone that does these kinds of things for you? If not, start praying and looking for one. Because just like Barnabas made a difference for Paul and like my elderly lady made a difference for me, having someone like that will make a difference for you.

It doesn’t need to be someone on your youth ministry team, it doesn’t even have to be someone from your church. It does need to be a ‘good man or woman of great faith, filled with the Holy Spirit’ who has the gift of encouragement. Find your Barnabas, you’ll be a better youth leader for it.

Do you have a Barnabas already? What difference does this person make for you and your ministry?