by Nora Ross
Since the early church, people have had disagreements, which caused them to separate. Paul and Barnabas worked together to bring the message of the Gospel to many. They decided to return to areas that had been very successful. Barnabas wanted Mark to accompany them and Paul disagreed. There was such disagreement Paul and Barnabas separated. Paul took Silas and Barnabas took John Mark. As a result of this separation, the Gospel was spread to a greater area and number of people.
This passage may sound familiar to you. You may know it from the personal experience of people leaving your church or ministry. People you have worked with for years have left. Maybe, they were there to move you into your home or parsonage when you arrived. Your families have grown together. You are there for them during their triumphs and losses. They are there for you in the good and the bad. You consider them your best friends. You wonder if Barnabas and Paul had this type of relationship. When your friends and partners in ministry leave, it hurts. There have been some who have left without even saying goodbye. There are others you wish would have only said, “Goodbye.” It seems Paul and Barnabas parted on terms that helped them both to succeed in ministry. Paul even seems to have forgiven Mark and speaks favorably of both in his later writings.
There was a time when a family member did something that made the local news. As my husband tried to read the prepared statement, the church wept with us. They followed the request not to discuss the situation. Many of them asked how they could help. When they asked to bring meals and we refused, they delivered them anyway. The newspaper printed our address and people attacked our home. It was only pellet guns; but it was frightening. People from our church offered to come and sit on our porch and protect us. No one left the church as a result of that situation. However, we have had people leave over misunderstood statements and gossip. It seems gossip leads to feelings of entitlement. Everything we know as a Christian is thrown out with the hurt feelings and the need to confide in others. We spiral into a frenzy that becomes difficult to overcome. As pastors and leaders, we need to be careful not to partake in the “prayer request” mentality that says I can talk about this to this person and this person and that person whether they are a part of the problem, or a part of the solution. We are the leaders and should lead by example. We need to question our motives as we share information and listen to information. As we receive and give information, we need to think about whether we would want a member of our congregation hearing or saying this. If it is not appropriate for them, it is not appropriate for us.
A lead pastor once told us that people are as loyal as the last thing you did for them. If we had lived by that choice nugget of pastoral wisdom, we would no longer be in ministry. We would have burned out trying to keep everyone loyal; or, we would have become bitter because we felt we had to give to keep people loyal to us. We minister as God leads us, not with the thoughts of who will leave next, or wondering how long someone will stay. As we live righteously with servants’ hearts, God will provide for us and for those who leave, just as He did for Paul and Barnabas.