I do not particularly enjoy being overlooked and unnoticed. Maybe we can all relate. Picture a lively discussion among a small group of people seated in comfy chairs. The spiritual conversation underway resonates with your life experience and an “aha moment” you recently had in Bible Study. You have something to add to the discussion. Your heart beats a bit faster as this thought becomes clearer and you feel nudged to share it. You move to the edge of your seat. No one makes eye contact. You start talking, but the excitement of the conversation leads to multiple people talking at once. No one notices that you were trying to speak.
You give up.
As you slide back into your seat which no longer feels as comfy as it did just a few minutes ago, you resign yourself to passive participation. You will listen, but there is not a place at the discussion table for you. But then, your name is mentioned. A conversation partner in the group leans forward and gently asks if you have something to share. Noticed, you recognize that you belong. The door has been opened to participation.
• Leadership Development
Whether or not you can personally relate to this experience, plenty of our conversation partners can. The dynamics of groups, small or large, can keep people on the outside looking in. Only when there are sensitive leaders in the group is the door truly open to all. This is a key piece of leadership development. As an SDB Conference of Churches, we have been focusing on equipping and mentoring leaders in our churches. In the rush to engage in leadership development, we can fall into assuming that only means preparing people to be up front, leading the discussions. In reality, we especially need leaders who subtly put wind in the sails of those who are on the outside looking in.
Let’s go to Acts chapter 9 after Saul’s conversion. He is very much on the outside looking in until Barnabas comes along:
26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.
While I do not claim to be Saul, I can relate to part of his story. Looking back, I can clearly see the many Barnabas leaders that God has placed in my life over the years. They have shaped my discipleship trajectory. They are a reason why I am living out my current vocation. In fact, Barnabas leaders are a key factor in why I belong among Seventh Day Baptists today.
• Barnabas Reflection
I invite you to join me in a brief reflection. Take a few minutes and reflect on the Barnabas moments that you have been blessed with over the years. Thank God for specific people and times where subtle leadership of others opened a door for you. Take a few more minutes to reflect on opportunities that God is providing you now to undertake Barnabas leadership. Is there someone unnoticed in your circles? Is God nudging you to encourage and open the door for someone specific? Are you searching for opportunities to bless others as you have been blessed?
I am thankful. Thankful for the ways God has provided leaders who intentionally opened the door for me to belong. And, thankful for the opportunities that God is now providing me to do the same.