by Michael Goldsmith
In Acts 4:36 we read, “Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means, Son of Encouragement).” What a nickname: “Son of Encouragement”! Though he is mentioned only a few times in the New Testament, Joseph was so known for his ability to infuse hope, inspiration, and a high belief in others that soon everyone began to call him “The Encourager.”
In every instance of life, Barnabas lifted others to their highest levels because of his ability to sincerely elevate their morale and confidence. In the early days, the church was under tremendous stress, pressure, and persecution. Even the apostles needed times of encouragement, and Barnabas constantly breathed life into them, inspired optimism, and elevated their vision.
Take Paul, for example. No one would take a chance on Paul’s conversion to Christianity. He was eyed with suspicion, and his “conversion” was questioned as a ploy to simply gain access to the Christian community. His past was violent and blemished. Others held him at arm’s length. But not Barnabas! With confidence, Barnabas walked alongside Paul until church leaders were convinced of the authenticity of Paul’s experience with God. Barnabas was a bridge between Paul and the established church.
In another instance, as Paul led an evangelistic crusade, a young, uncertain Mark became insecure and fled the scene. Sometime later, Barnabas suggested giving Mark another chance. Paul refused. Yet Barnabas saw potential in Mark and, living up to his nickname, spent time mentoring and training Mark. Later in life, Paul desired to see Mark again because of the change in Mark. Certainly Mark would credit Barnabas with coming to his aid and convincing Paul to give him another chance.
Daniel Goleman has researched extensively on the value of what he calls “emotional intelligence.” His works, Primal Leadership and Emotional Intelligence, are well worth reading. Simply put, Goleman asserts, “Great leadership works through the emotions . . . if leaders fail in this primal task of driving emotions in the right direction, nothing they do will work as well as it could or should.”
Emotional intelligence is not about hyped-up, motivational phoniness to get people to do what you want. It is much deeper, much more serious, and much more valuable. Hyped-up motivation is typically short-lived. A simple pep talk would not alleviate the real threat against the early church. Paul’s past had serious implications that a “Can’t we all just get along?” speech would not rectify. Mark’s immaturity could not be corrected by a glib statement from Barnabas to Paul. Each of these issues required someone who understood the situation and could provide the catalytic spark for genuine improvement.
Barnabas was that person. He saw the underlying value in each person and had an ability to influence each one to reach his “best self.”
Goleman writes, “Leaders’ moods and actions have enormous impact on those they lead and shed fresh light on the power of emotionally intelligent leadership to inspire, arouse passion and enthusiasm, and keep people motivated and committed.” All of us have been in situations where another person had the ability to either “spark” or “drain” you, to motivate or demotivate. Certainly, you’ve walked into a place where you could feel the mood. Leaders have the ability to alter the mood for the better.
In life we meet both balcony people and basement people. Balcony people pull you up, cheer you on, inspire the best, and give you confidence. Basement people drag you down, discourage, and make you feel incapable and incompetent. Barnabas was a balcony person. All encouragers are balcony people.
Become the “spark” in your family, church, job, neighborhood, or sphere of influence. Be the balcony person. Become known as “the Encourager”—the one who is always hopeful, always solution-oriented, always contributing, always lifting others to higher levels.
Moods, emotions, attitudes, and behavior are contagious. Be a “spark” wherever you go today!
Michael Goldsmith has pastored congregations in North Little Rock, Conway, Pine Bluff and Siloam Springs, Arkansas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. He now serves with Global University as Director of Advancement for a project in a sensitive country. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org