Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Acts 15 is a clinic on how to handle conflict in the church. In my previous post I commented on how they handled an attack of legalism on the church from a group of believers. When the council met and wisely decided what to do, the Gentile believers were pleased and the church continued to grow.
There is an incident at the end of the chapter that shows what can happen when two strong Godly leaders disagree.
With the Gentile issue resolved and the church sufficiently strengthened, Paul and Barnabas decided it was time to strengthen some other churches. Paul suggested that they retrace their previous journey and visit the churches they had established in Turkey. Barnabas agreed.
So far, so good!
Then came the tricky part. I have put together enough mission trips that I know how hard it can be to get the right people together. As they were putting together their team for this trip, Barnabas wanted to include John Mark. Acts 13: 13 gives us John Mark's missionary resume: "From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem."
Simply stated, John Mark was a quitter. He had quit on Paul and Paul had lost confidence in him. Barnabas, on the other hand, was a gracious man, an encourager, one who was willing to give John a second chance.
Paul and Barnabas were two strong leaders with equal passion for the Gospel and the Church, but they had two very different personalities and temperaments. Paul was a no-nonsence bottomline get it done kind of guy and Barnabas was a gentle patient grace-giver. Both were effective, just different in their approaches. I can see how they have worked well together in their earlier ministry ventures.
So, now they were at an impasse. What should happen when two strong leaders agree so sharply that there is no hope for agreement? Here is what we can learn:
1) The mission must come first
2) Love must rule the relationship and the decision
3) Each leader must be true to his sincere conviction
4) In the end, disagree in an agreeable way
That is how this dispute was resolved. As a result, some real good things happened:
Paul took Silas and sailed to Syria and Cicilia, while Barnabas took John Mark as set sail for Cyprus. So, as a result of the proper resolution of this conflict, the missionary effort was doubled and the number of missionaries was doubled! Not only was the mission accomplished but it was increased by 100%!
Plus, when John Mark was given a second chance he redeemed himself and became a trusted partner not only to Barnabas, but also to Paul! (See Colossians 4:10; II Timothy 4:11).
I love it when a plan comes together!
God works through unity. But unity does not always mean unanimity, it means disagreeing agreeable. In this case - mission accomplished!
What a great lesson for the 21st Century Church!