“And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple.
But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles.” (Acts Ch 9 v 26 -27)
If there is one person from the Acts of the Apostles that I would like to have in any church that I went to, I think it would be Barnabas. I am sure that it would be more exciting to have Paul, or Peter or Philip, but I just love people who are risk takers in welcoming in the spiritual surprises. At this stage, Paul was still Saul, the one who everyone in Jerusalem thought was an enemy of the Church, everyone that is except for Barnabas. It takes a special sort of faith to be a bridge-builder, the sort of faith that can believe that God is able to cope with and convert even the most unlikely individuals.
Over twenty years ago, I had the privilege of meeting several people who were members of the Worldwide Church of God. At that time, the Church had come through a ten-year period of metamorphosis from what was acknowledged to be a cult, through to an evangelical church with a sound understanding of the gospel. Originally founded by Herbert W. Armstrong and known as the Radio Church of God, after the death of the founder, the new leadership went back to scripture and instituted a period of genuine reformation. The folk that I met in the church had demonstrated a willingness to reconsider their faith in a way that I had rarely seen in any mainline church.
Encouraged by what has happened in the Worldwide Church of God, since that time my wife and I have been praying for Jehovah’s Witnesses, as we believe that it is possible for God to accomplish a similar reformation in them as well. I get excited at the thought of hundreds of biblically aware God-fearers, being truly born again through an encounter with the risen Jesus on the level that Paul had on the Damascus Road. We have been to a couple of Kingdom Hall meetings, and we invite any Jehovah’s Witnesses in who knock on our door. I do not acknowledge them as Christians, and I can understand that some may classify them as enemies of the gospel, but what a potential pool of zeal and enthusiasm waiting to be transformed and harvested for front-line ministry for Jesus Christ.
I do believe it possible that we shall see some dramatic conversions from the ranks of those who presently at odds with the gospel. Who can say whether some might even be on the same level as Paul, and can we even consider the invigorating effect that might have on the slumbering church?
But if it happens, we shall need some bridge-builders like Barnabas who will be happy to welcome them and nurture them.