13/03/2006

The Barnabas Factor

This short (160 page) book is an excellent light read, about encouragement in the Christian life. (Derek Wood, the author, does not appear to have a web-site.)

It's a well-blended mixture of fictional anecdotes in the life of a typical church, Biblical examples with brief explanations, and the author's own comments. He makes several excellent points about the importance of encouragement in the Bible, and how lacking it can be amongst today's Christians. We find it all too easy to criticise, or pour cold water on people, and when we try to be encouraging it's easy to overwhelm them.

Instead, this book advises us to learn to listen, to pray for wisdom, and to consider what encouragement really means. It's not about blind praise (which can, at times, be discouraging) and it's not about trying to persuade people to cheer up. Instead we need to learn to care about people, to meet them where they are needy, and to give them genuine encouragement - seeing their good points rather than their bad ones. We shouldn't necessarily avoid conflict (Barnabas, greatest example of encouragement in the Bible, had a sharp disagreement with Paul at one stage) but should certainly avoid judgementalism and negativity.

Nothing deeply profound or new, but I enjoyed the interludes in the fictional congregation, which made the points as clearly as any explanation, and it was a good reminder of the need we all have to be appreciated and encouraged. Recommended.

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