“When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.” – Acts 11:23-24 (NIV)
Today’s passage comes from an event that happened in the early days of the Church.
Initially, most new Christians were converts from Judaism. Soon though, as the message of Christ spread, even the Gentiles began to hear and respond to the message about Jesus. They were coming to Christ and they were evidencing the same spiritual gifts as the new Jewish believers. When this happened in a big way in Antioch, the leaders of the church in Jerusalem sent a man named Barnabas to go check it out.
When he got to Antioch, he saw the amazing things God was doing and it made him glad. The Bible says with his words he encouraged these new Gentile believers to remain true to Jesus and love Him with all their hearts.
New believers need encouragement. Each week new folks come to know the Lord and join the church. They are new to the ways of Christ and to the ways of church. If they get stares and glares because what they are doing is “not the way we do things around here,” they will probably either hide in a spiritual shell or they might bail on the discipling that God wants to do in them.
There is a difference between personal preferences and godly doctrine. Personal preferences are negotiable, but Godly doctrines are not. Take the time to distinguish why you are bothered by what you see.
Either way, with everyone at church and at home, find a way to encourage people in their next steps. If you will be a “Barnabas” to them, they too will be encouraged to keep on in their new walk with the Lord and with their new church family.