Monday, January 18, 2010

Never Let Conflict Affect Our Mission

Preached by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett, pastor, Faith Community Church, Barre, VT

January 17, 2010

Scripture Passage: Acts 15:36-41

Verse 36 - After some time had passed, Paul said to Barnabas, "Let's go back and visit the brothers in every town where we have preached the message of the Lord, and see how they're doing."

  • Paul and Barnabas had come to Jerusalem in order to get advice about the controversy regarding legalism and grace. After clearing up that difficulty in favor of grace, they felt led to take a missionary trip.
  • The point of any missionary trip is to share the Gospel with others and encourage the believers who are already there. In this situation, Paul and Barnabas wanted to see how the churches were doing that they had helped start on their previous trip.
  • We must remember that it takes time to build relationships and learn how to minister effectively in any particular situation.

    Verse 37 - Barnabas wanted to take along John Mark.

  • As Paul and Barnabas prepared to go on this mission trip, Barnabas wanted to take John Mark along with them.
  • Barnabas was known for being a great encourager. In fact, he was one of the few people who encouraged Paul when he first became a Christian.
  • We all need great encouragers in our lives.
  • Barnabas thought that if he and Paul took John Mark with them on this mission trip, it would encourage John Mark to grow in his faith.
  • On the job training is one of the best ways to learn about our faith and grow in the Lord.
  • John Mark was Barnabas's younger cousin, so Barnabas was particularly interested in encouraging John Mark in his faith.

    Verse 38 - But Paul did not think it appropriate to take along this man who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone on with them to the work.

  • Paul did not think it was a good idea to take John Mark along with them because on the last mission trip John Mark had quit half way through the trip and went home.
  • Sometimes we volunteer for things that we later realize are really not right for us.
  • But it is important to finish what we start and fulfill whatever commitments we have made.
  • When we fail to keep our commitments, it has lasting effects on our reputation and our usability for future endeavors.
  • The Greek word for "appropriate" actually means "worthy." Paul does not think John Mark is worthy of going on this trip because he was a quitter.
  • John Mark's reputation as a quitter robbed him of the joy of future service. Though he did eventually reunite with Paul, it was many years later. (2 Timothy 4:11)
  • Scholars take different sides in this argument.
  • Some say Paul was being harsh for not giving John Mark a second chance.
  • Others say Barnabas was overly influenced by the fact that John Mark was his relative.
  • In reality, both men probably let their emotions get in the way of clear thinking.

Verse 39 - There was such a sharp disagreement that they parted company, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed off to Cyprus.

  • The disagreement between Paul and Barnabas was so sharp, they parted company.
  • The Greek word used for "disagreement" is also used through the New Testament to describe anger, irritation, and exasperation. It is also used to describe God's wrath at idolatry. It is a strong word.
  • Remember, these were two godly men who had served the Lord together for years and undergone significant hardships and difficulties together.
  • They were not only professional colleagues, they were also dear friends. Yet their friendship ended over this disagreement.
  • It is sad when Christians cannot resolve their differences and friendships end as a result.
  • Obviously we want to avoid this if at all possible, but sometimes we can't avoid it.
  • Regretfully, sometimes even godly people just have differences of opinion that cannot be overcome.
  • If we realize that we must end a relationship for irreconcilable differences, we must end it well and in a way that honors Christ.
  • Notice that Barnabas did not get so angry that he dropped out of church. Instead, he became more involved in missionary work.
  • When a relationship ends, we should not let it take us away from the Lord.
  • The goal of conflict resolution between Christians should always be to build up the Body of Christ, not to "win" or "be right."
  • Disagreements between Christians need not hurt the testimony of Christ if all the people involved keep the "big picture" of God's redemptive purposes in mind.
  • In this situation, Paul and Barnabas decided to each engage in different missionary efforts.
  • This resulted in two missions being launched instead of just one.
  • The missions were not in "competition" with each other because they went to two completely different places.
  • Barnabas and Mark went to Cyprus, which was Barnabas's homeland and where Mark also had many relatives.
  • The Bible does not record the results of their efforts but church tradition says that Barnabas became the first Bishop of Salamis, his native city, where he was eventually martyred and was secretly buried by his cousin Mark.

    Verse 40 - Then Paul chose Silas and departed, after being commended to the grace of the Lord by the brothers.

  • Paul chose Silas as his new assistant and they followed through on Paul's original plan to revisit all the places he had previously evangelized and started churches at.
  • Little is known of Silas other than he was a Roman citizen, which gave him certain rights that most Christians did not have, and that he had been active in reaching non-Jews for Christ.
  • Notice that Paul's trip was "commended" by the church.
  • This phrase was not used of Barnabas's effort.
  • This seems to indicate that the church supported Paul's efforts and perhaps did not support Barnabas's effort.
  • This does not mean that the church thought Paul was "right" and Barnabas was "wrong." It simply means that the church was not in a position to support every missionary cause and had to choose one of the two.
  • Churches often have to make difficult decisions about which missionary efforts to support. Such choices are a reality of limited time, energy and resources and not necessarily an indication that the church thinks a particular missionary effort is not worthy of support.
  • Paul's particular effort seemed to fit the church's overall mission efforts more than the trip Barnabas undertook, so they supported Paul's effort.

    Verse 41 - He traveled through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

  • As Paul traveled, his focus was to strengthen the churches. God has ordained the local church as the primary method through which He will reach the world for Christ.
  • Missionary efforts should be primarily focused on helping start and strengthen local churches similar to the ministry of Paul. This does not mean that other efforts are not important; it just means that local churches should be the focus.


  • Sometimes Christians have honest disagreements that they are unable to reconcile.
  • When such disagreements end a relationship, it must be done in a way that honors Christ.
  • A church, or individual, can only do so much, so we should find a cause and be faithful to it.
  • Our causes may differ from other good Christians and that okay so long as God is lifted up in whatever our cause is.


  1. I totally agree, but there are times when you cannot control the situation. Leaders that do not lead allow conflict to contine unresolved so that the work is not only affected, but drastically hindered.

  2. Milton,
    Yes, it is so sad with leaders don't lead and unresolved issues hinder the work. Been there, done that, did NOT enjoy it. Now that I am in leadership, I pray that God helps me be effective, wise, full of grace and most importantly, a Jesus-like leader.

  3. Looking for practical ways to put some of the principles in this blog post into action? Purchase my book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church. The first part of the book explains why bivocational ministry is biblical, normal and missional. The second part of the book explains how to mobilize the laity to do high level ministry in a team setting with the pastor so that the church can be effective in reaching its community for Christ.
    The book is published by Crossbooks and you can buy the book directly from them at:

    The book is also available on, Barnes and and a many other online bookstores.
    If you live in Central Vermont, you can purchase a copy at the Faith Community Church in Barre, VT.