Relationships are the main tools for ministry. A critical function of church programming is to provide opportunities for developing, cultivating, and maintaining relational connections between church family members. Whether worship services, life groups of Sunday School classes, or prayer meetings, an important function of such gatherings is bringing persons together for connection.
The challenge is that organized program times alone are seldom sufficient to build healthy, trusting relationships. Church events might provide a beginning point for connection, but they don’t necessarily offer the ideal context for deeper sharing. While life groups might be a better place for such sharing, relatively few church attenders join such groups, and the size can still be a limiting factor for openness and authenticity.
If we desire true spiritual, relational health, we will need to take responsibility for our own relational care by intentionally building personal relationship chains. These chains form the “minimum DNA” for multiplying healthy disciples of Jesus Christ. The essential building block of a movement of growing disciples is the PBT—“Paul-Barnabas-Timothy”—chain. As Christians, we need to pursue God’s heart by purposefully seeking these relational connections, recognizing that while church events and programs can support our spiritual growth, our PBT relational connections are the core ingredient of spiritual advancement.
At the center of these chains are a few “Barnabas” brothers and sisters. The model for such persons is a man whose real name was Joseph (Acts 4:36) but who became known by the name “Barnabas,” which means “son of encouragement.” All of us need several Barnabas-style friends with whom we meet regularly for prayer and Scripture discussion and with whom we can be open, honest, and real. We give these friends permission to encourage us when we are down and challenge us when we are drifting from Jesus. These friends form the core of our support and challenge team, the Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 partners with whom we share life day by day.
The “P” of the PBT chain is a “Paul,” a mentor with whom we meet regularly so that we might learn from them. This mentor is one who God has identified to us as a person who has maturity beyond our own in walking with Jesus. We must prayerfully identify and then approach these persons to ask if they would be willing to help us grow in our faith by taking time to meet regularly and share with us the wisdom and insights they have gained in their journey with Christ.
The “T” stands for a “Timothy,” someone not as far along in their Jesus journey as ourselves—a person God has challenged us to come alongside to assist in taking next steps with Him. We must ask God to show us who this might be, then approach them to say, “I see Jesus in you, and I’d like to meet with you to invest in your walk with Jesus.”
These PBT chains multiply as we encourage our Barnabas friends to seek out their Paul and Timothy, challenge our Timothy to recruit a Barnabas team, and so on. At the core, each disciple maintains a personal Paul-Barnabas-Timothy relational chain that provides stability and continuing support.
Do you have a PBT chain? Can you identify a mentor you have asked to help you grow in your Jesus journey? Have you sought God’s heart for a Timothy to intentionally coach and mentor? Do you have a regular group of Barnabas friends who know you—strengths, weaknesses, challenges, victories—and with whom you share encouragement and support? Don’t wait for someone to ask; be the initiator of your PBT chain and allow God to multiply discipling relationships through you.