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Becoming Barnabas: The Ministry of Encouragement Paperback – October 30, 2004
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"At last! Here is a leadership book that provides practical help for congregations of every size and setting and pastors with a variety of gifts." -- Rueben P. Job
About the Author
Paul Moots has served as pastor in a variety of settings in his 22 years of ministry: associate pastor, campus ministry, pastor of an urban congregation, and his current position in the village church of First United Methodist in Mount Sterling, Ohio.
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Moots characterizes The Ministry of Encouragement as "...the art of leading and supporting others in the discovery of their own spiritual gifts and call to discipleship." (Page 2). The essential word in his definition is "art" which stands where many books on ministry offer a "technique" or "plan" or "program." Moots indicates that if ministry is not artistry, then we are only technicians and poor ones at that. Moots sees this art of leading as a gift from God available to both those who are ordained and those who are not, a gift that the recipient can foster. How refreshing, too, that this art is "other" oriented; it is not so much what ministers can do for themselves as what their ministry can do for others.
The book is packed with bon mots and profound principles lived practically in local congregations, such as Moots' current call, First United Methodist of Mount Sterling, Ohio. For instance, "Well-controlled ministries are often stagnant ministries that meet our goals, not necessary God's." (Page 27). Even more, the book is also suffused with prayer. Indeed, Moots' model for a prayer-led church is a compelling Biblical alternative to recent models that are, shall we say, driven instead of led. As Moots says, "Relinquishing a position of control to allow someone else to fulfill his or her ministry is the act of a true leader..." (Page 30)
Dare I quote Moots at his best? Here he is: "Although the majority of contemporary examples I use are based on incidents in churches where I have served or am serving, I cannot claim to be an untainted exemplar of the ministry of encouragement. I am still trying to shed the training I received in the CEO style of ministry from seminary and the pastors of my youth, and I often have to rediscipline and rededicate myself to Barnabas' way." (Page xvii).
The "Reflections" at the end of each chapter are ideal for the reader to make Moots' insights his or her own. They would also serve well in a small group study, for a church board longing for a more excellent way, or as a leadership retreat at the start of a new church year. Our officers had a retreat based on this book several years ago; I believe that time spent reflecting upon and applying the insights in this book could prove to be transformational for your faith, too!
So, just who is Barnabas? Barnabas is a relatively minor character in the book of the Acts of the Apostles (indeed, almost everyone pales into minor character-hood by comparison with Peter and Paul). Barnabas was one who encouraged others with their ministries and gifts, who did not react out of jealousy (why is my church not the biggest or best?) or personal ambition, but rather for the good of the community. Moots highlights five particular points in the story of Acts, places that have becoming meaningful to him not only in his study, but in his preaching through the texts.
Moots highlights several aspects - the first is working together in partnership, which he characterizes as 'standing with and standing aside'. (Acts 11.25-26) It was during this ministry that disciples were first called Christians. The second is a ministry of hospitality (Acts 9.26-27), sharing space, activity and spirit with those who are different. The third is ministry of courage (Acts 14.19-20) - few of us in the Western world need fear persecution for being Christian, but that is not to say that ministry does not require risk. The fourth is a ministry of reconciliation (Acts 15.37-39) - what happens when we fail, or fail to live up to expectations? Moots recounting the split between Paul and Mark, easily missed in the Acts, and their eventual reconciliation, is particularly meaningful to me, as my own church still bears a grudge against me. The final piece from Acts (4.36-37 and 11.23-24) looks at issues of authenticity in ministry - how do we know that what we are doing is what God wants us to do?
Moots points out in various places that this book is not a blueprint or a roadmap - all churches and congregations will be different, so the broad principles laid out here will be applied in different ways with differing levels of effectiveness. However, this is a solid, spiritual, biblically-based idea for drawing all people together in the service of God in God's community. The ministry is not the exclusive province of those of us ordained, but rather belongs to all the people.
Moots provides questions for individual reflection and group discussion at the conclusion of each chapter. This would make a wonderful Lenten study for a church or adult study group. Moots redefines success as not being mega-church, numbers-oriented growth and impact, but rather as deepening spirituality and faithfulness in the congregation, whatever its size, to each other and the vocation to which it is called.
This is a wonderful book.