Son of Encouragement

A Man Named Joseph

Joseph was a Jewish Christian who lived in the first century. While he wasn’t extremely rich, he was a landowner. He lived in a time and place in which many of the early Christians were greatly persecuted.

One of the things Joseph did to help his fellow Christians was to sell his land and give the money he made to the group of believers in Jerusalem. However, not only were the early Christians being stripped of their money, their very lives were being threatened for following Jesus. Therefore, Joseph traveled the land to encourage those believers and to persuade them to keep on keeping on in their commitment to Christ.

He was much loved and though you’ve probably never heard Joseph’s name, the early church knew him well. He was highly regarded among them. In fact, he was so highly considered that the leaders of the early church assigned him the job of teaming up with a recent convert to the faith, a fellow who had been known for stirring up a great deal of trouble against the early church.

This new convert had been a great persecutor of the early church, but now, seemingly out of nowhere, was a disciple of Jesus. Understandably, the men and women of the early church found it difficult to trust this man.

What this new convert needed desperately was for someone greatly loved and trusted to come alongside him and help him build bridges to the rest of the early church. That’s exactly what Joseph did. In fact, Joseph did such a thorough job that he was eventually eclipsed by the mighty work God did in and through the life of this new disciple. This new disciple of Jesus became one of the most influential missionaries and theologians the Church, in any age, has ever seen.

Perhaps you have figured out who that “new convert” was. It was Saul of Tarsus who became the Apostle Paul. However, you may not be quite as sure of Joseph’s identity. Maybe you know him by his nickname: Barnabas. The name “Barnabas” meant, “Son of Encouragement,” and that’s exactly who Barnabas was. He was a great encourager.

Come Alongside Of

One of the primary definitions of the word, “encourage,” is “to come alongside of.” That’s exactly what Barnabas did.

He came alongside those in the early church when they needed money. He sold his land and gave the profits to the early church in Jerusalem.

He came alongside the persecuted believers and lifted their spirits with the message of the Gospel and by reminding them of the hope they had in God.

He came alongside Paul when he was distrusted and disliked by so many folks and helped to bring reconciliation and trust between Paul and the early churches.


Stay tuned for Part 2

One Hundred Godly Men

The Mission

I’m on a mission. I’m searching for one hundred godly men.

John Wesley once wrote in a letter…

“Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen, such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven upon earth.” (From a letter by John Wesley to Alexander Mather in 1777)

For Wesley, “preachers” didn’t have to be what we call professionals. Instead, the proclamation of the Gospel and the witness of and for God’s Kingdom was to be done by every person who follows Christ. The undergirding biblical witness of Wesley’s words inspires and provokes in me a strong desire to see one hundred godly men in my community fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God. If such a faithful fellowship of one hundred brothers in Christ could be cultivated and encouraged, it would transform our little corner of the world for Christ.

A Grand Vision

Is this too grand a vision? Thomas Chalmers once said, “No matter how large, your vision is too small.” In other words, nothing is impossible for God and therefore, we must dream big. I believe this vision for one hundred godly men is well within the reach of a sovereign and gracious God. Of course, my desire is not only for my community. Instead, my prayer is that bands of one hundred godly men will spring up in countless “little corners of the world.”

The Nature of the Call

This is not a call to nominal or cultural Christianity. It is a call to what John Wesley described as Scriptural Christianity (what I have referred to as Kingdom Discipleship). Following Christ in such a way steers clear of halfhearted and mere intellectual belief in Jesus. Instead, it’s the terrifying and exhilarating call of discipleship our Lord warned must be responded to first by counting the cost of following him daily. This does not produce a privatized or compartmentalized faith. Instead, it develops a faith that is passed from one person to another, from one generation to the next. As salt and light, this faith permeates every sphere of a person’s life, in homes, workplaces, communities, cities, and, ultimately, the world.

The Real Counterculture

I once heard pastor and writer, Tony Evans, preach these words,

  • As the man goes, so goes the family
  • As the family goes, so goes the church
  • As the church goes, so goes the community
  • As the community goes, so goes the city
  • As the city goes, so goes the state, the nation, finally the world

This, I believe, is nothing less than Scriptural Christianity, than Kingdom Discipleship.

Our world is in great need of such men of God, for they are truly, in our day and age, the real counterculture and one of God’s primary provisions for a lost and hurting world. Such men are ambassadors of the King of kings, and therefore, minister and bear witness to the kingdom of this world under his authority and according to his agenda. They have no message but his. And not only are they called to proclaim this message, but they must also live it out before a watching world. The motivation of their mission is love for their Lord and their neighbor.

Join Me

This mission to find such men is part of God’s call in my life. Through Bible studies, small groups, one-to-one discipling, mentoring, spiritual direction, counseling, and writing, I am prayerfully working to help and encourage available and willing men become the kind of men God has created, redeemed, and called them to be. I believe God is calling you to be such a man. Join me on this journey.

What’s Your Reputation?

He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. (1 Timothy 3:7)

You have probably heard the definition of character as, “who you are when no one is looking.” You could also say that character is who you are when those who know you best are looking.

In the second chapter of The Measure of a Man, Gene Getz looks at what it takes to build a good reputation. This is rather a tricky area because some folks may enjoy a good reputation superficially because they’re able to reasonably fake it before people they don’t know well and with whom they associate only on an occasional basis. But living a life that builds a good reputation is hard to fake on a regular basis with those who know you best… such as the members of your family.

Let me hasten to add that the expectation here is not perfection. As one person I recently read put it, the idea here is direction, not perfection. The question is: Are you moving in a Christlike direction in your life? Is that your intention?

In our Scripture, Paul recommends to Timothy that the kind of person he should be looking for to exercise leadership in the church ought to have a good reputation. Christians are charged with hypocrisy enough as it is. And even if the charge isn’t always accurate, the mere perception can derail a life or a ministry. Worse still, we don’t want to misrepresent our Lord before a watching world.

Getz suggests that Timothy was such a person… a man with a good reputation. He highlights these three  indicators…

1. People were saying positive things about Timothy.
2. More than one person was saying these positive things about Timothy.
3. People in more than one location were saying these positive things about Timothy.

It seems wherever Timothy was and whomever he was with, Timothy was a godly man living above reproach. Thus, he enjoyed a good reputation.

Ask Someone

Getz suggests that if you really want to know your reputation (as it relates to your genuine character) ask someone who knows you best. This might sting a little, but it’s a good way to get an honest and accurate perception of who you are… and it will go a long way in helping you become the godly person you want to become.

Ask Yourself

Just as important, we occasionally need to conduct a personal assessment of who we are and what we’re about. Getz suggests asking yourself the following questions (these are great questions, by the way)

1. Do more and more people select me as a person to share their lives with?

2. Do people trust me with confidential information?

3. Do my relationships with people grow deeper and more significant the longer they know me and the closer they get to me? Or do my friendships grow strained and shallow as people learn what I am really like?

4. Does my circle of friends grow continually wider and larger? Do an increasing number of people trust me?

5. Do people recommend me for significant or difficult tasks without fear of my letting them down?

The point in all of this is not to build a reputation by duplicity and manipulation. To be sure, there are plenty of people doing that. Instead, our goal should be that as we grow in godliness, the authenticity of our increasingly Christlike character will be made evident to all. And that’s how we can represent our Lord well in this world.

Ultimately, those of us who are in Christ are seeking to advance the glory of our Lord’s reputation, and not our own. But we can’t avoid the connection that our reputation will be linked to his, so let us live lives above reproach and for his praise and glory.

Godly Manhood: The Real Counterculture

A Definition

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines counterculture as…

a culture with values and mores that run counter to those of established society

I was taught that you shouldn’t define a word by using the word you’re attempting to define in the definition… but what do I know? Yet there you have it: A counterculture is a culture with values and mores, (customs) that run counter to those of established society.

If that’s our working definition, then I have a question: Can you think of any group or culture more “countercultural” than men pursuing godliness? This is not a group or category of people that gets good press in today’s world.

Stepping Up

About ten years ago, our men’s ministry used a fantastic curriculum entitled, Stepping Up to Courageous Manhood. It’s a 10-week study that seeks to answer the question of what it means to be a godly man.

One of the things that seemed to connect with the men, continually throughout the ten weeks, was just how counter to our popular culture, godly or biblical manhood really is. From the basic values we hold dear, to how we seek to love and serve our families, to the ways in which we desire to care for our communities, it became clearer and clearer throughout the course of the study who the real counterculture actually was… and is.

Within the wider culture there are many subcultures, of which godly manhood is only one. I’m sure there must be a good number of these subcultures that are also countercultural. But certainly, men pursuing authentic godliness must be ranked among them. And the reason is, this godliness runs counter to the “established society.” It operates according to a different standard. And men who pursue this godliness, this view of manhood, are slandered from top to bottom. The hermeneutic of suspicion is through the roof. There must be some ulterior motive why men would champion such a worldview. It must be a power-play… and on and on it goes.

Its unpopular and unwelcomed status as a life worth pursuing makes the journey that much more difficult to travel. Who needs that headache? It will just be easier to live as an undercover Christian, with personal faith convictions hidden from the rest of the world. Yet that’s not an option for men (or women) who follow Christ. In fact, Jesus told his followers they should expect such a response from the world (John 15:18-20).

If you want to join a real counterculture, then give yourself to Christ, follow him, worship him with others, get connected with men who study his word and pray together, who watch over one another in love, and serve others in need and distress. These characteristics have distinguished God’s people for two thousand years and will continue to do so. And know in advance that such a way of living, which seems like such a blessing for the common good, will not always be received as such. And that’s ok.

Going along with the world, like drifting with the current, is easy. The problem is, you won’t like where you end up and you’ll have little say in the matter. Therefore, let me encourage you to get connected with a group of Christian men at a church near you, and join the real counterculture today. The world needs you… and so does your family, church, workplace, and community (Matthew 5:13-16).