In ministry, I try to make it a point to invest in people. It is not a new concept, and for it, I can claim no originality – for I, too, have been invested in by many a great Pastor, fellow Music Minister, and wise / Godly church member in my history. Because of the example of these great men and women in my life, spiritual and ministerial investment is second nature to me.
What is an investment? No doubt, it involves a significant upfront cost for the investor. In the case of ministry, this cost is usually in the form of time and knowledge, and involves some form of monetary depositing as well. Why do we invest? Any wise investor seeks out investments which promise a pleasing return. Something that will benefit him (the investor) in the future. The ministerial / Christian investor hopes to see returns in the form of kingdom growth and impact. There is no greater return than seeing the ones in whom you’ve invested making an impact on the culture for the gospel of Christ. As young as I am, the returns I’ve seen are only minimal – but one day, I’m confident that the broader effects of my investments will be something that brings me considerable joy in my late years on this earth.
I’d like us to look at an example from scripture. In the book of Acts, it is recorded that Saul of Tarsus had an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ that changed him permanently (Acts chapter 9), after which, Paul (Saul’s new name) began to learn, teach, and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We see in verse 27 that not long after Paul’s conversion, a man named Barnabas took him in and began to teach and train him. Barnabas, the “son of encouragement” as his name is translated, was an investor. Before too long, he was able to see his investment return thousands of souls and I know that he must have thought, “Well, this is the best investment I’ve ever made.”
Paul and Barnabas ministered together for a long time. They journeyed together through Antioch, Salamis, Iconium, Lystra, and Jerusalem sharing with Jews and Gentiles alike. What an incredible journey that must have been. And I can only imagine the joy that Barnabas must have felt. What thoughts do you believe were going through their heads? Maybe some things like, “We are a great team!” “God is really using us mightily.” “We’ll be together for the rest of our lives!” Then enters the controversy over John Mark.
At the end of Acts 15, Paul wanted to go back to the towns they had already visited to continue with encouragement and evangelism. Barnabas agreed, but wanted to take John Mark with them. Now, apparently (v. 38), Mark had abandoned Paul and Barnabas previously (for an undisclosed reason), and Paul was bitter against him. Paul refused to give Mark a second chance. In fact, he disagreed with Barnabas so sharply on this that he (Paul) and Barnabas actually split up! Oh the anger, the disappointment, the hurt that must have been present! Here is a team that has been so effective for Christ, and now they have to split up! I’ll bet you this had more of an impact on the feelings/emotions of Paul and Barnabas than you or I can imagine.
So Paul took Silas, and went back to the churches he and Barnabas had started, encouraging them. But Barnabas took Mark and went on to Cyprus. It is obvious that Barnabas, the encourager, trained Mark in much the same way that he had trained Paul. Now, Barnabas is investing in Mark. This will be important later. In Acts 16 (immediately following the split-up), Paul selects young Timothy to go with him. Now Paul is investing in Timothy just as Barnabas had invested in Paul.
I want to fast-forward quite some time now to 2 Timothy 4. Paul is in prison, and near the end of his life. What do you think he is reflecting on? Obviously, he is writing to Timothy, and desires for him (Timothy) to come see him soon. But look at verse 11. Who else does Paul want for Timothy to bring? You got it. Mark. The same Mark he had given up on so many years before and in whom Barnabas has been investing, just as he invested in Paul. And why does Paul want to see Mark? – because Mark is “useful” to Paul. I think Paul realized that he might have been wrong to reject Mark for deserting him and Barnabas so many years ago.
I also think Paul learned his lesson. In his letter to Philemon, Paul is defending Onesimus. Onesimus was Philemon’s servant who ran away from his master. Paul encounters him, leads him to Jesus, and urges Philemon very strongly to welcome him back as a brother. I’m sure you can draw the parallels. Paul has learned his lesson.
WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ME???!!! I’m so glad you asked. The life of the Christian is all about investment. Every time you share the gospel message, you are investing in someone. And you never know how that person will affect the culture in the future. So I say make as many investments as you can.
Then, there are those who you just know have a special call about them. They exhibit the qualities of a great leader, and they are gifted by God in certain areas. Spend some time with them. Give them the knowledge you have gained. Invest in them.
Lastly, it is obvious that sometimes, people fail our expectations. I have many an investment out there right now that has “deserted” his or her call. Be patient. Be encouraging but honest. Lift him or her up in prayer constantly. You never know when the day will come that you may be asking for them to come to you because they are useful to you.
Grace and Peace,