20 Lessons/20 Years: Lesson #13: Be Encouraging

  • Be encouraging.
  • Do whatever you can to affirm others.
  • Express gratitude for what you see.
  • Tell people what you love about what they are doing.
  • Empower people in their relationship with Jesus.

Encouragement is a game-changer, influencing all our relationships, be that in the church, family, workplace, or coffee shop.

As I continue my month of reflections, initiated by my realization that I’ve been serving in vocational ministry for 20 years, let me share a lesson with you that makes SUCH an impact on our daily life.

Lesson #13: Be Encouraging.

I think my greatest impact in ministry has come when I’ve been the most encouraging, when I’ve stepped in close to affirm, support, and even challenge someone.

Paul challenged and affirmed his Christian friends to “encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” In my experience, many Christians serve without much feedback at all. And when feedback does come, it can often be negative. “The music was too loud.” “That kid was sure disruptive.” “You made the coffee too weak.” Deflating, dis-empowering drivel.

Now, as any reader of this blog will attest, I’m all for honest, helpful, constructive feedback.  But I’ve noticed that people are rarely affirmed and encouraged, told what they are doing right, offered a good word to boost their spirits, or simply thanked for their service to the body of Christ.  And even more, few have had the kind of insightful encouragement we all need: “When you led worship today, I was so drawn to the love of Jesus for me.” “I just love seeing you interact with your children–you are a great mom.” “Thanks for coming early to support our coffee addiction! Just think of how dangerous we’d be without you?” Unless we are willing to become super-encouragers, no amount of feedback we offer will be constructive.

Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.- (1 Thessalonians 5-11 NIV)And then moving beyond encouragement in our ministry to one another, we must encourage one another as we follow Jesus together. Encouraging one another and building one another up is about giving each other what we need to keep growing in Christ, keep serving in his name, keep letting the Spirit work in our hearts and heal our hurts, empowering us to become all he desires. In the church family I’m part of–the Evangelical Covenant Church–we often recall a question from our early Mission Friends: “How goes your walk?”, a kind of spiritual “What’s up?” This question was not meant to engender guilt or create tension–its purpose was to care and understand so we can pray together, stand together, and support one another in our journey together in Christ. Like hikers scrambling a steep trail, we follow Jesus together, encouraging one another along the way.

Really encouraging one another takes time, energy, and a willingness to get in close. Truth is, we can’t encourage one another and build each other up from safe distances. Until you know where I am struggling, until I know where you feel insecure, we can’t really “give each other courage” for trail ahead. Vulnerability is key. Because when we’ve prayed together, when we’ve shared our hearts with each other, when we’ve eaten together and laughed together and fished or played or sang together, then we are able to encourage each other in the ways that count.

And the more encouraging we are to each other, the farther we’ll be able to go, the better the journey will be, and the greater effect we will have on the world. So let’s be encouraging.

Let me ask you:

  • What is most encouraging for you?
  • What is one way you can become more encouraging today?

Ministry Lessons I’ve posted so far (I’m going for 20): 

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