Do you appreciate the encouragement of others?
OK, maybe that’s a dumb question; of course you do. I don’t think I’ve ever met somebody who didn’t. Since any of us who has lived the Christian life long enough to be helping others have experienced ups and downs, frustrations and stress, and successes and failures will know the value and power of having been encouraged by someone, why wouldn’t we place a priority on encouraging others ourselves? The truth is that most of us are encouraging sometimes, but that isn’t really making disciples, for doing that requires that we be intentional.
Maybe the question should be more like this: When was the last time that you went out of your way to encourage someone?
When we are mentoring other people, there are times when they falter or make mistakes. In such times we might be tempted to get on them about it, yet a mature Christian understands that a person who has had a setback really doesn’t need to be yelled at, they need patience, love and possibly instruction. Here’s an example:
As the person who was leading the worship ministry, there were times when the worship team had problems or failures on Sunday mornings. It could be anything from a bad case of nerves to forgetting the words to a song, or there could have been a technical problem. I must admit that there were a few times that I was pretty frustrated myself. It is easy to be encouraging when everything goes right, but when they don’t what do you do? When the Team would mess up, I didn’t need to point it out to them; they knew it only too well. This is a time to compliment them on how well they recovered and kept on going, or to point out that in spite a few rough spots, they still gave glory to God in adversity, and to assure them that we would work those things out.
There are many examples like this in ministry. Personal matters are a little different, but they can be handled as well. If somebody makes a personal mistake, I never really needed to tell them, for they already knew, but sometimes I’ve had to help someone forgive themselves and live to try again, assuring them that Jesus loves all of us in spite of our imperfections.
When things are going well, the people involved normally know that, too. Yet in these cases, we have a great opportunity to bring the situation to their attention, letting them hear what a blessing their hard work has been to the rest of the congregation, and reminding them that they are doing God’s work and giving Him glory. Have you ever been on a ministry team that required long hours of hard work? Encouragement that is genuine and truthful will get more work from happy people than you can imagine! Just remember that the purpose of encouragement isn’t just to get more work out of volunteers, it’s to help them understand that they are playing an active role in building God’s Kingdom.
I think I’ll end this post on this final point: There is one person who needs your encouragement more than anyone else, and that is your pastor. His job is encouraging everyone around him, and much of the time, we forget that he is a human just like the rest of us. We often drain our pastors of their physical, mental and emotional strength with our needs, remarks and complaints, and a good one will never complain back at you. Who ever encourages him?
The answer is that usually no one does. This can create more problems than most people can imagine for a pastor, not to mention for his family, and that fact is shameful. Let’s not think of our pastors as a professional who has no feelings, let’s keep in mind that he is merely our brother in Christ who works very hard to lead and nurture everybody else and give him the kind of encouragement that we want from him. You might be surprised at the result.
Next time, I’d like to say something about what it means to love one another. Oh, by the way, I am still thinking over the issue of going more deeply into spiritual gifts; I haven’t forgotten!