A Model of Servant Leadership - The Warrior's Journey®

A Model of Servant Leadership

Author: Chaplain, COL Scott McChrystal, USA (Ret.)

. Photo by is licensed under CC By 2.0

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ … Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem.” (Acts 13:2, 13) 

What is happening in this chapter?  In the span of twelve verses, the Gospel team of “Barnabas and Saul” has morphed into “Paul and his companions.” What has happened to Barnabas?   

Barnabas is still on the team, but he has allowed Saul of Tarsus to assert himself to the forefront. Was that the proper thing to do? For Barnabas was a believer far longer than Saul and a long-standing leader of the church. In fact, if it wasn’t for Barnabas the church may not have ever accepted Saul of Tarsus as a true brother in the Lord. Regardless of Saul’s conversion, believers still had vivid memories of his war against the church and they fled at the sight of him. It was Barnabas who convinced the apostles and the church that Saul was no longer a foe but a friend (Acts 9:26-28). 

And if it wasn’t for Barnabas, Saul would probably still be waiting for the Lord’s call in Tarsus. That’s where the Apostles had sent him, for he was proving to be a lightning rod for trouble (Acts 9:28-31). But it was Barnabas who left Antioch in Syria to search for Saul in Tarsus of Cilicia. Barnabas brought Saul back into Christian service and Saul labored in the Gospel ministry with all his might (Acts 11:22-26). 

But now Saul, whose name became Paul, has taken over as leader of the group. Ever since Paul called down blindness upon the false prophet Elymas and led the Proconsul Sergius Paulus to faith in Christ (Acts 13:6-12), he has become the recognized leader. Did that cause any hard feelings between Paul and Barnabas? It seems to have bothered Barnabas’ cousin, John Mark. It appears that Mark resented Paul taking charge and he deserted the group and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). 

But Paul’s “takeover” didn’t faze Barnabas one bit. You see, Barnabas was wholly committed to the mission of preaching the Gospel. If letting Paul take the lead made the team more effective in reaching the lost, then so be it. Obviously Barnabas sensed that Paul, a man who was supposed to be his subordinate, was better gifted by God to lead. So he stepped aside and supported Paul as leader of the group. Barnabas was a rare individual, a true servant leader. He readily accepted any responsibility given to him. Yet he refused to stand in the way of those whom God was exalting above him.   


  • Read Mark 10:45. In what was did Jesus prove to be a servant leader? 
  • What prescription did Jesus give to those who wish to be great? (Mark 10:43-44) 
  • Let’s follow the examples of Jesus and Barnabas and be true servant leaders.  

Let's Talk

100% Confidential | Warrior-to-warrior

We respond within 24 hours and can provide community support, resources, and referrals.