How It All Began
Significant works in the kingdom of God almost always begin in small, obscure ways. John 17:23 Pastoral Support Groups began when five pastors, strangers to one another and from diverse Christian backgrounds, met together for lunch in the spring of 1992. Ernie was a Charismatic, Jim H. was a United Methodist, Jim A. was a lay pastor in the Gospel Outreach Movement birthed on the West Coast among the Hippies, Mike was a Foursquare pastor, and I was an evangelical Congregationalist. We had two things in common, a commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and a deep desire for more of Christ than we had experienced up to that time. By the time we finished lunch we had agreed to four significant things:
First, we would meet together every other week for the next nine months to get to really know each other, share our heartaches and struggles, read Scripture, and pray for one another and for revival in our churches.
Second, these meetings were to be the number one priority in our schedule. We agreed that we would allow nothing except family, pastoral emergencies, or illness to usurp them.
Third, we would keep everything shared in the group in utter confidence, not even telling our wives, unless specific permission was granted.
Fourth, no matter what might happen when we met, no matter how threatening it might become at times, we would not walk away from the others before the nine months were over and we had the opportunity to evaluate what had happened among us during those months.
When the day came to evaluate our experiment and answer the question of whether we would continue or disband, each said, "I must have this meeting in my life. Too much has begun to happen to me to let it go now." Our small support group had become a place where we found love and acceptance, security and encouragement, accountability and respect, freedom from pastoral competition and the liberty to celebrate our victories and accomplishments, and challenges to grow spiritually and pastorally. It had become more than we ever dreamed and prayed it would be.
Our ‘experimental group’ became permanent in 1993. In 1994, we adopted the name ‘John 17:23 Fellowship’ and the movement began. By 1997, there were four groups in existence and a Leadership Team was formed, we also held our First Pastors’ Retreat. What follows are other major milestones in our history:
|2001||Six pastoral support groups in existence|
|2002||Barnabas Ministries incorporated - Pastor Dick Germaine becomes Executive Director|
|2003||1st Gift Day for pastors|
|2004||1st Celebration Dinner|
|2006||11 John 17:23 Pastoral Support Groups in existence. First regional prayer meeting held.|
|2009||Barnabas Ministries, West Michigan, launched|
|2010||Barnabas Ministries, South Florida, launched.|
|2011||Barnabas Ministries, North Georgia, launched.|
|2011-12||Barnabas Ministries New England splits into three separate regions, Central New England, Merrimack Valley, and Southern New England.|
|2013||Five Regional Directors, 33 groups in New England, 13 groups in Michigan, 3 groups in South Florida, and 6 groups in North Georgia (connecting with over 450 pastors).|