A culture of trust based on vulnerability – Part IV

By János Tomka


4. One of the most important qualities of a trust-building leader

From Barnabas’s life we can learn that it is important to give young and unexperienced people a second chance, even when respectable Christians, consider them unreliable.  Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus.” (Acts 15:36-39) There are those who claim that Barnabas was an excellent Christian in almost every respect but that he made one important mistake; he did not accept the judgement of Paul in this case, an undisputed apostle of the Lord.

Why do they think Paul was right? We do not read such a message in the Bible. The Scriptures also do not explain why John Mark deserted Paul and Barnabas. Maybe he got news from his family that made him decide to go back. Of course, it is also possible that the young man simply could not endure the many trials. But why judge this step of Mark in terms of right or wrong? Of course, in the case of fundamental, clear beliefs, we must adhere to the truth, but in this example, there is nothing like this. Those who are rigidly attached to their perceived truth cannot build trust because they do not regard those they serve as worthy of trust. It is a great encouragement that the story of the three of them does not end in the separation of Barnabas’s and Paul’s paths.

Years later, around 55 A.D., the apostle Paul praised Barnabas’s life and ministry (1 Corinthians 9:6). In another letter, he mentions Mark John as a positive example: “My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me.”(Col. 4:10-11) Barnabas, the son of consolation, raised a man from the “unreliable” youth who eventually became Paul’s comforter — the Paul with whom they had been in conflict about ten years ago, precisely because of John Mark.

Once again, we can read from Paul’s pen about John Mark. Towards the end of his life, the apostle was imprisoned for the second time in a Roman prison (A.D. 67-68), from where he wrote a letter to Timothy. In addition to his many important teachings, he spoke of his own miserable state: “Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you because he is helpful to me in my ministry. (2 Timothy 4:11) John Mark may have proved to be worthy of trust in Paul’s eyes in the end because Barnabas gave him a second chance, praising him for the re-advance of his trust.

Reflection/Discussion Questions

  1. Can you share a situation of broken trust? How did you deal with it?
  2. What can you do to enable yourself to give renewed trust?
  3. How do you draw a line that create justice, personal development and stimulate trust building?

Dr. János Tomka – Electrical engineer and engineering teacher, PhD degree in management and organizational sciences, habilitated doctor of theology. From 1993 to 2014 he worked at KPMG in senior management positions. He is a college professor at the Pentecostal Theological College, head of the Department of Management Studies; executive mentor and moderator of workshops. He is a member of the Knowledge Management Working Committee of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Hungarian Academy of Engineering and the National Association of Managers. He is a member of the Association of Christian Leaders and Businessmen (KEVE) and president from 1994 to 2004. He has given numerous lectures, written articles and books on the relationship between the Bible and leadership, among others. Elder of the Reformed Church of Pesthidegkút. He is married to an architect and has three adult children and three grandchildren.