In the latter part of the twentieth century the title “Angel Investor” was coined to describe an often invisible contributor to entrepreneurial success. Angel Investors are a hybrid of financier and mentor. The role of an Angel Investor is seldom spotlighted and not easily explained to a broad audience, but for the early-stage business creator, these investors are forever celebrated as a senior partner in the company’s ultimate success.
Ministry has the equivalent. You could revisit the missionary journeys of the apostle Paul and imagine him working alone, but the contemporaries who experienced his ministry up close saw him alongside his early-stage partner, Barnabas. In fact, when the pagans in the city of Lystra saw the power of God manifested in their midst, they called Barnabas Zeus, the “father of gods and men,” and they presumed Paul to be Hermes, the son of Zeus, and the spokesman for that more powerful deity. Clearly, Barnabas was no incidental part of the gospel movement in the first century (Acts 14:8–14).
Paul is the celebrated champion of the first-century faith, but his story would have unfolded far differently without the significant involvement of Barnabas alongside him. Barnabas may be one of the earliest examples of a Gospel Patron. His investment and involvement in Paul’s ministry is a powerful picture of a Gospel Patron’s role in God’s kingdom.
But let’s not simply look back to marvel at the unsung heroes of history. Instead, let’s look to the future and ask ourselves how God might have us place our discretionary time, talents, influence and money alongside a Gideon, a David, a Daniel, a Paul, a Tyndale, a Whitefield, or a Newton? How might our mentoring and our investing join forces to cause a breakthrough that would not happen without a Gospel Patron?
There are many people who pray that God will raise up leaders to complete the Great Commission. But what if we also prayed for God to raise up a generation of Gospel Patrons to align with those more outspoken leaders?
Behind every Paul, there’s a Barnabas who is so deeply invested and involved in gospel ministry that the pagans called him Zeus.