Acts: Disagreement Between Paul and Barnabas

Read: Acts 15:36-41

The early church is not perfect. They don’t have everything figured out, but they are focused and intent on spreading the gospel. The passage today highlights a sharp disagreement between two significant leaders: Paul and Barnabas. Luke doesn’t go into a lot of detail here, but as they discussed who to take on the next missionary journey Paul had a problem with John Mark:

Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. Acts 15:38

This might have slipped under the radar a few chapters ago, but look back and see where John, i.e., Mark, left the rest of the team.

From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem Acts 13:13

This is the same Mark that wrote the gospel of Mark and the same one who Paul eventually recognizes as one who is helpful to Paul’s ministry in 2 Timothy 4:11.

We also know that Barnabas and Paul continue to correspond.  The disagreement didn’t split the church, but perhaps their separation at this point was better for the church in the long run since we know everyone mentioned here continues to fuel the movement of Christ-followers.

Team Composition Matters

It’s important to understand that personalities clash. Leadership styles differ, and as we see through the example of Paul, leadership styles may evolve over time with growth and maturity.

We only see small glimpses into this exchange with Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark, but I can imagine that Paul, at the very least, felt very disappointed in John Mark. Perhaps after he felt John  Mark abandoned him, he harbored some hurt and unforgiveness. Isn’t that the way it is in ministry? We work together so closely. Our lives are intertwined. When one person on the team doesn’t follow through with their responsibilities, perceived or real, it creates tension and harsh feelings.

So the healthy thing for the growing Church at that point was for Barnabas and John Mark to go their way, the way the Holy Spirit was directing them. How incredible is it that Silas was there! Paul was able to continue in the way the Holy Spirit was leading him and have a partner in ministry as well.

It may very well be the team composition between Paul and Barnabas at this time was not a healthy one. So not only was the separation good for the two parties involved, it also allowed the Church to grow and grow.

The same Spirit is guiding both teams, just in different directions. All for the purpose of growing the Kingdom for Christ — this is the most important thing.

Lord, help us to be sensitive to Your Spirit as we work in teams to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Help us to check our pride, to be aware of others on the team, and seek unity at all times, even when that means moving to a different team.

Thoughts about serving others

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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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