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Qualifications for Your New Board Members

by Mike Smith • September 28, 2020

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If I asked you to think of a person whom you would like to be your new next board member, using as a model one of the Bible’s characters, who would it be? Peter, Paul, Joseph, Moses, Andrew, Mary, Ruth, Esther, John, or Luke? All maybe good choices, but some of these folks could be interesting. Some would want to be chairman instantly; some would be on their cell phones the whole meeting; and some so busy, you couldn’t get the next meeting scheduled because they wouldn’t be available.

I’d like for you to consider Barnabas. He could be the greatest unsung hero in the Bible. It seems to me that, for any organization looking for a new board member with the leading qualifications of character and virtue, he should be the gold standard. Let’s look at his credentials.

Barnabas’s given name was Joseph, but his nickname—and the way he is referred to in the Bible—was Barnabas, which means son of compassion. He was an encourager. In the 26 instances where his name is mentioned in the Bible, we can see how his character traits led to him being one of the most influential leaders in the early church.

  • He was generous (Acts 4:36–37). By his act of selling his land and giving it to the apostles, he was an encouragement to the Christians in Jerusalem. What board could not use a generous donor to its organization? Some boards have a giving requirement (or it’s strongly suggested) for their members; how ideal would this man be?
  • He was courageous (Acts 9:26–28). When the higher council in Jerusalem would not accept Paul as legitimate, Barnabas stepped in and saved the day. He stood with Paul to give him credibility. He was able to win over the church leaders, including James and Peter. He must have had a good reputation, or they would not have yielded to him.
  • He was full of the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:22–26). He was spiritually mature. For faith-based organizations, I consider this qualification essential. We can avoid a lot a trouble by choosing board members who have it. As a result of his spiritual maturity, Barnabas was humble and a facilitator. He went to Tarsus to get Paul to partner with him. He recognized that Paul had a gift, perhaps one he didn’t have. Barnabas was willing to play second fiddle and be a supporter.
  • He was trustworthy (Acts 11:27–30). When an impending economic depression was prophesied, Barnabas was entrusted with money collected in Antioch to take to the believers in Jerusalem.
  • He was a passionate defender of truth (Acts 15:1–4). He and Paul stood up to the men who came down to Antioch from Jerusalem claiming that the gentile believers had to be circumcised. They took their case to the leaders in Jerusalem and convinced James and the apostles that they were right. This was a major decision that changed church history.
  • He was forgiving (Acts 15:36–39). He was willing to stand against Paul when they disagreed over whether to give John Mark, who had previously abandoned them, a second chance. Barnabas chose to separate from Paul and travel with John Mark—who later became the author of the Gospel of Mark.

You may not be able to find someone with all the character traits that Barnabas had, but why not try to get as close as you can? This kind of board member could make all the difference in the future direction of your organization.

Happy board hunting!