Sons and Daughters of Encouragement

The Apostle Barnabas shows up early and often in the story of the first-century church. Throughout Acts and the Epistles, his name gets paired so often with the fiery apostle Paul that it sounds like a law firm, business, or a couple whose names just always get said together. Morgan and Morgan. Sears and Roebuck. Glen and Lisa. Paul and Barnabas. And those two rode through the pages of the New Testament together, spreading the gospel to all the known world. Hard to imagine a Christian faith without Paul. It might be harder to imagine a Paul without Barnabas.

For starters, he was there first. A full five chapters and Lord knows how long before Paul was blinded by the light, we get the story of this lesser character’s greatest act. And like Paul on the Damascus role, it involved a change of identity. Up till Acts 4, Paul’s sidekick was a little know Levite from Cyprus named Joseph. But because the Bible already had too many Joseph’s to keep straight, they gave him a new name. Just kidding. Actually, it was because, at a very pivotal moment, he caught the spirit of communal generosity. He felt compelled to sell some land he owned and give the proceeds to the apostles, who in turn, gave to those who had need. In that moment Joseph became Barnabas, a biblical name he could have all to himself. So what did the name mean? In his native tongue, he was the “Son of Encouragement.” And by all accounts, he lived into that name well for the rest of his life and ministry.

So why the tutorial on a little known biblical figure? Well, it is because we are living in equally uncertain days where there is a lot of local need. Some of it is financial; many in our community have taken a hard hit these days. And the discouraged among us need some lifting up. So how about a church initiative that bears the name of one who shared both? It’s a good idea.

We are calling it “The Barnabas Fund.”

The Barnabas Fund will be a ministry arm of FBC St. Pete. In the spirit of its namesake, this fund exists for two purposes. First, and primarily, it will afford financial support to members of the FBC family whose livelihood has been directly affected by the Covid-19 Pandemic. We can’t meet all of anyone’s needs, but we can come along beside our most vulnerable folks and make sure they do not lack life’s necessities; just like the early church did. Secondly, it will be used to do acts of encouragement for folks who are on the frontline risking their own health to protect ours. It’s a way of telling our community that the congregation at the corner of 275 and Gandy loves, appreciates, and cares for them. And we are stepping into these defining moments to let it show.

The Barnabas Fund is separate from our operating budget and the funding of benevolent ministries such as our food pantry. It also does not encroach on regular mission giving that is advancing the gospel through our mission partners around the world. The fund has been seeded with $5,000, but ultimately will only be able to expend what comes through your Barnabas like gifts of encouragement. Four years of pastoring FBC has taught me that you are a generous, encouraging lot when presented with the opportunity and need. So here it is. Through initiatives like these, you are truly being the church. And being is better than attending, even when you can. And especially so when you can’t.

We do ask that gifts to the Barnabas Fund come over and above your regular giving to FBC. I both thank you and encourage you to continue to grow in faithfully supporting the primary way that our congregation’s ministry is funded. But we also offer you this opportunity to go above and beyond, presenting heartfelt gifts that allow your church to reach out and do the same. It is as simple as making the designation “Barnabas Fund” on any online gift or check.

I think old Barnabas would be proud to be part of something like that. I know I am. I’m guessing you will be too.

To Give to the Barnabas Fund, please write “Barnabas Fund” in the memo line of a check, select “Barnabas Fund” in the list of funds for a Realm Online Gift, or Text FBCSTPETE Barnabus to 73256 to give using your text messaging and receive a link back to give.