When St. Paul had to dismiss an A player from his team

Paul and Barnabas separate
Paul and Barnabas separate

We may remember the zeal of the previous young Saul of Tarsus.  His impetus desire to eliminate this sect, the followers of Jesus.  Just as zealous persecuting christians, after his conversion he becomes zealous preaching the gospel.  His dedication is admirable.  And he demands the same dedication from his companions, from his team.  They are to be 100% in.  No turning back.  The words of the master were fresh in the minds of many:  “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the Kingdom of God”.  (Lk 9:62)

A beautiful friendship had developed between Paul and Barnabas.  Barnabas was the one who had convinced the apostles about the value of Paul.  Soon, they became a team for God.  Paul was the leader.  He was taking the initiative.  He once asked Barbabas to go back and visit all the towns where they had been preaching.  Barbabas wanted to take Mark, who had deserted them earlier.  Paul would not have it.  Barnabas wanted to give him another chance.  Paul would not give in.

I remember coming to work in a new role of leadership.  I was to take over the team.  I had a few A players.  Yet, I knew what I had to do.  An A player is only a true A player if that person is supportive of you.  If an “A player” undermines your authority, that individual has to be dismissed from your team.  The point is, before executing your plans, get the right people on your team.

Get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus and the right people in the right places.

This was the phrase Jim Collins used in his book Good to Great.  We see how Paul applied it faithfully.  He would just not give in.  “They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company”. (Acts 15:39)  Paul would not take someone who would quit so easily and he would not take part with a friend who would not support him.

Now, this does not mean that Paul ostracized Barnabas.  He thought that it would just be better that each preach the gospel of the Lord in different teams.  This was the last we read about Barnabas in the book of Acts.

Surprisingly, we do find Mark working with Paul in the future.  Paul was a man for second chances after all.  However, he discerned at the time that Mark was not the candidate he needed in his team.

How could the apostles have judged Paul at the time?  Based on Barnabas’ account, they could have thought that Paul was too harsh.  Maybe they could have thought that Paul was not a good leader.  We do not know.  However, one thing we know.  The apostles allowed Paul to build his own team.  This is one of the first duties of a leader.  As Jim Collins tells us, first the Who, then the What.

Discussion Questions:

1.  How cohesive is the team you manage?

2.  How have you dealt with unsupportive people in your team in the past?

3.  What consequences have you faced when trying to deal with this problem?

4.  What would the consequences of not dealing with this problem be?

5.  What do you think about Paul’s decision?

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