Professional Christian Counseling
Why The Name Barnabas?
As we considered what to name our training program, we believed that it was important for the name to have spiritual significance as well as be connected with a person whom trainees could immediately identify with as someone of high moral character. We also wanted to associate our program with someone who personified the characteristics of Christian charity and devotion as well as the attributes that a great lay counselor should also possess. No other Biblical character, besides Jesus Christ himself, demonstrates those better than Barnabas.
Barnabas was not his birth name. He was originally known as Joseph of Cyprus until the Disciples of Jesus began calling him Barnabas. You see the name Barnabas means "Son of Encouragement." It was something the disciples found endearing about him and something we want our trainees to be known for as well. We get only a brief snapshot of this man and who he was, primarily from the book of Acts. It is there that we find that Barnabas became a colleague of the apostle Paul after having been set aside by the Holy Spirit for ministry.
Barnabas first showed himself as a peacemaker when he helped Paul gain acceptance from the church leaders of Antioch, in spite of the murderous reputation against Christians that had preceded Paul. In doing so, Barnabas demonstrated that he was also a good judge of character and a man of discernment as he recognized that Paul was no longer a threat but had become a great man of God instead. This event also showed us something else about Barnabas.
As a Levite, his family heritage would have consisted of Jewish synagogue service. Furthermore, since Temple priests could only be chosen from among the Levites, it is conceivable that Barnabas could have been a priest as well. The thing for us to see however is that Barnabas set aside his status as a Levite in order to work with Gentiles. That means that Barnabas was willing to cross religious and cultural boundaries and work with people who were quite different than him.
Barnabas travelled extensively with Paul. During those journeys, Luke stated that Barnabas suffered persecutions; taught with great authority; and performed signs and wonders just like Paul did. Barnabas was equal to Paul in his abilities but because he didn't write the bulk of the New Testament like Paul did, we tend to see Barnabas as secondary to Paul. Notwithstanding his disagreement with Paul over John Mark, which shows that he gave people second chances, Barnabas was also a man of conviction. He stood-up for what he believed in which was giving John Mark a second chance.
His travels with Paul also demonstrated that he was able to submit himself first to God and then to those God placed in authority over him. Like Barnabas, lay counseling students may see themselves as secondary to those who seem better educated. Numerous studies reveal something quite different. In outcome studies comparing the effectiveness of paraprofessional helpers with mental health professionals, researchers have discovered that one group does hold a slight edge over the other. The group that was most effective were the lay counselors. Their clients did better than postgraduate, masters level licensed Social Workers, Mental health Counselors, doctoral Psychologists and Psychiatrists.
Perhaps you too can relate to Barnabas? Perhaps you are a person of high moral character and integrity who can appreciate Christian devotion and charity; to being a peacemaker of broken or strained relationships? Perhaps you have discernment and can fairly assess where a person is in their mental and spiritual state; are willing to help people find their second chance? Maybe you are able to submit yourself to God for ministry and to others for training? Perhaps you are an encourager who is able to cheer people on to the goals they set for themselves? If these are true of you then maybe you could be a Barnabas to someone who needs one?
B U (Be You)... Be a Barnabas!
For Lay Counselor Education