By Dave Earley and Tom Swanner


[  ] If you get more excited about the ministry success of someone else whom you have helped than you do about your own success, you may be a Barnabas.

[  ] You are content to do most of your ministry behind the scenes and off the radar, you may be a Barnabas.

[  ] If ministries that you have started tend to fizzle, you may be a Barnabas.

[  ] If you would rather listen quietly to the struggles of a young leader than lead an evangelistic rally, you may be a Barnabas.

[  ] If you get your greatest joy from watching the individuals that you have discipled become movers and shakers in the kingdom, you may be a Barnabas.

[  ] If you are awakened often in the night with an urgency to lift up your senior leader in intercessory prayer, you may be a Barnabas.

[  ] If you are more about what other leaders are doing than about what you are doing, you may be a Barnabas.

[  ] If you are often tempted to see the needs and inadequacies in senior Christian leaders and think of ways you can help, you may be a Barnabas.

Dr. Tom Swanner

The church needs apostolic, entrepreneurial, high-impact leaders like Paul. But remember, there will never be a “Paul” without the encouraging ministry of a “Barnabas.”

At Grace City, Dr. Tom Swanner fills the role of a Barnabas.  Last fall, Tom and Angel, along with their two daughters, Grace and Cierra, and Tom’s Mom, Joanne,  moved to Las Vegas by faith to help Grace City in any way they could.

In January, Tom and I partnered to open the Grace City Bible Institute. This summer we are launching our first two church planter cohorts through our Church Planting Center.

I am the guy with the vision, connections, and energy to get these ministries going. Tom is the guy with the patience and steadfastness to mentor the potential leaders through the process. Without me, these ministries would not be getting started. Without him, they would not keep going.

This week, I asked Tom to enlighten us as to what it means to fill the role of a Barnabas. Tom writes:
“Most of my life I struggled with thoughts of inadequacy and self-doubt. I was sure that I was supposed to be in some kind of ministry; however, I did not feel that I was supposed to be the lead in any Christian organization. I knew what it took to be a leader, and many times I found myself in leadership roles, but I never felt entirely comfortable.”

“One day I was studying the life of Paul. I realized that there was a person who was not only humanly responsible for Paul being in the ministry, but there was also a person responsible for keeping him effective at ministry for an extended period of time. His name was Barnabas.

Barnabas: Son of Encouragement

“Barnabas was really a nickname that Joseph (his real name) picked up after the early believers learned what kind of person he was. The name “Barnabas” means “son of encouragement.” The longer I spend in ministry, the more I am convinced that this type of leader is vital for the sustainment of our campaign against the darkness. While we may see the need for real men and women of God to lead the masses, the often-overlooked need of the son and daughter of encouragement is just as fundamental.”

“The problem with being a Barnabas is that there is often very little recognition in the modern Christian economy for someone who is a second leader. People tend to ask, “Who is in charge here?” People want to get that guy’s attention so that they can get what they want. They do not ask for the guy who is not in charge of something, because that guy cannot give them what they want.”

“Jesus said that whoever would be great in God’s kingdom would be the servant of all (Matthew 20:25-28). As a Barnabas, you have a great responsibility. Your job is to keep the “Paul” in your ministry encouraged and on track. They do not need your criticism from the sidelines. They need your encouragement.”

If you would like more information on our BX (Bible Institute) or CPX (Church Planting Center) contact Tom at


About dbearley

Dr. Dave Earley is the Lead Pastor at Grace City Church in Las Vegas, NV. Prior to pastoring in Las Vegas, he taught at Liberty University for 5 years. Before Liberty University, Dave was the founding sr. pastor of the New Life Church of Gahanna-Columbus, Ohio. New Life started in his basement with 12 people and grew to nearly 2,000 in weekly attendance with over 100 small groups. ( New Life has intentionally sent out five healthy daughter churches since 1999. Dave, and his wife, Cathy, have three highly active sons, Daniel, Andrew, and Luke, who will all be graduating from Liberty University in May, 2011.
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