A short reading and prayers for today
There, in the town of Salamis, they went to the Jewish synagogues and preached the word of God. John Mark went with them as their assistant. Acts 13:5 NLT
This is the start of the first missionary journey. It was an incredibly important moment for the Christian gospel and it started on the island of Cyprus. Saul (who suddenly becomes known as Paul) was happy to preach about Jesus anywhere, but it was his usual custom to start in the synagogue and work out from there. I find it fascinating that on this most sensitive of missions he and Barnabas took young John Mark with them.
We have already met John Mark in the previous chapter. He was clearly well known to Paul and Barnabas, but it was a major initiative to take him on this strategically important missionary journey. You can think of many reasons why it might not be wise to take a young and inexperienced person on such a crucial mission. But they were convinced that his presence was important. It’s impossible to know exactly why they took him, but it is always wise to ensure that young people are being trained up for ministry. I once worked with a very gifted youth minister who was convinced that it was vital to give significant leadership responsibilities to young people by the age of 15, in order to help them to grow. It was wise thinking and I saw many young people grow into mature leaders by their late teens because they had been given the experience of leadership.
I am grateful for those leadership teams on which I have served where there has been a conscious desire to ensure that there is at least one younger person on the group. I can think of some who have been recruited who looked very much out of their depth when they joined but because they were trusted and encouraged, they quickly grew into effective leaders. Paul and Barnabas’ example should give us the encouragement to do the same today. From a human point of view they were taking a risk, but they gladly took it for the good of the church and how grateful we should be that they did so. The confidence that they placed in him might well have been the reason why he later became the author of Mark’s Gospel.
Does your church encourage younger people in this way?
Lord God, help us to encourage young people to grow in the use of their gifts. Amen
We praise your abiding guidance, O God, for you sent us Jesus, our Teacher and Messiah, to model for us the way of love for the whole universe. We offer these prayers of love on behalf of ourselves and our neighbours, on behalf of your creation and our fellow creatures. Loving God, open our ears to hear your word and draw us closer to you, that the whole world may be one with you as you are one with us in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
God of mercy and healing, you who hear the cries of those in need, receive these petitions of your people that all who are troubled may know peace, comfort, and courage. Life-giving God, heal our lives, that we may acknowledge your wonderful deeds and offer you thanks from generation to generation through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.