Formations lesson for Oct. 21: Leadership and Decision-making
October 5 2001 by Tom Greene , Acts 9:26-30

Formations lesson for Oct. 21: Leadership and Decision-making | Friday, Oct. 5, 2001

Friday, Oct. 5, 2001

Formations lesson for Oct. 21: Leadership and Decision-making

By Tom Greene Acts 9:26-30 "We are living in the age of the average man - what we need in this age of the average man is uncommon men and women." Not only are these haunting words, written by the editor of the Atlantic, true for our time, they were also true in the time of the New Testament. Here in this passage we encounter such uncommon men - Saul (Paul) and Barnabas. Saul never forgot the sheer joy and astonishment he felt while lying in the dust on the Damascus road, blinded by a light he encountered the risen Christ. Saul was never the same again. Everything he ever said or wrote or did from that day forward was an attempt to bowl over the human race as he had been bowled over.

His first obstacle was his own past.

Neither the early church, the Hellenists, nor even the disciples greeted him with open arms because of their memories of his past. Although he preached that Jesus is the Son of God, they did not believe him. Only a few days earlier he had been the Christians' most dangerous enemy. They could not understand such a complete change of heart. They were so skeptical of him they made plans to get rid of him. Thanks to the help of a few faithful friends he escaped by the skin of his teeth. Saul's first attempt to preach was a dismal failure. He went back to his hometown with little or nothing to show as a record of achievement.

It seemed that Saul's new life was nipped in the bud at the very start - then Barnabas arrived on the scene. Every word in Acts about Barnabas showed him to be a broad-gauged man who was willing to take a risk with a man like Saul. Barnabas nurtured Saul at a time when his spirit must have been low: the shattering experience on the Damascus road, the pain of adjustment to an entirely new life, the followers of Jesus refusing to receive him, believe him, or give him a chance! What a disillusioning experience that must have been! And then came Barnabas. He saved the day for Saul.

A brilliant young organist offended some of the congregation that hired him with his inventive hymn accompaniments. They could not see that he could be a gift to the whole church. He took a leave and went to another city to learn from the greatest church organist in Germany. When Dietrich Buxtehude had finished with him, he sent young J. S. Bach back to his parish even more on fire to serve God through music. Now some 315 years later, organists play Bach with awe and reverence. Now and then they drop in something by Bach's tutor. Buxtehude took Bach under his wing and kept him from becoming a disillusioned young dropout. The rest is history.

Barnabas took Paul under his wing. Later, he stepped back and watched the one he had advocated take off like a rocket, planting churches - the way Johnny Appleseed planted trees - all across the Roman Empire. Our Bible has no letters to young churches written by Barnabas. But Paul, whom they did not believe was really a disciple, wrote a dozen.

The story of Christianity is the story of Barnabas and Paul, raised to its highest conceivable level. It tells of a God who came among human beings in the shape of a human personality, and one after another got hold of them, not just of their minds or their manners, but of their whole being and made them new people. When we decide to respond to Christ's invitation to change, to have power and excellence in our lives, we are like Barnabas and Paul. Their lives became the message! That's it. The truth of the gospel becomes a message in the shape of a man or woman, and then it is doubly compelling. The message and the person come together and you can't deny them. It is not that they had a message, they are the message. People gather the truth of Christ into themselves and it becomes so much a part of them that you can't get around their winsomeness. God is committed to using his uncommon people and church for the accomplishment of the kingdom.

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10/5/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tom Greene , Acts 9:26-30 | with 0 comments
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