Archives For The Power of Encouragement

If you’ve ever worked or volunteered much at a church, you know there are many aspects of ministry to balance.  It can be overwhelming and balls can get dropped.

There are four major components to my personal philosophy of ministry.  There will be aspects of ministry that may not be included here, however, the following helps me organize my thoughts and efforts.

 

Image credit: 6kor3dos DepositPhoto.com/11826108

 

Focus

Based on John 10:10, as well as ministry and life experiences, I am convinced that in any Christian endeavor two supernatural beings are always at work. God is at work to promote life and our enemy is at work to thwart life and growth and sabotage spiritual progress. Therefore, we need to actively choose to focus our attention on what God is doing in any given situation rather than on what Satan is doing. I am firmly convinced that our attitudes in life are greatly controlled by the one on whom we set our focus. That is the one we actually serve. Therefore, my personal philosophy of ministry is to first maintain my own focus on what God and what he is doing and then to help others stay focused upon God and be an asset to what He’s doing in their lives.

Feed

In the practical outworking of the above principle, I see God entrusting a flock to a pastor’s or teacher’s care with the expectation of their being returned to Him having been well fed, strengthened and protected. Col 1:27-29 speaks of bringing the flock to maturity for God in Christ’s strength. Eph 4:11-16 paints a picture of believers being equipped for works of service so that the body would be a built up, unified, mature, loving and growing organism. I believe these goals are best achieved by sound biblical instruction given in an atmosphere of acceptance and inclusion.  Efforts will likely include:

  • Opportunities for people to evaluate where they are in their walk with God along with suggestions and resources to grow during the upcoming season.
  • Expository preaching of Bible books and occasional topical, yet expository, messages.
  • Relevant and engaging teaching during Sunday School/Adult Bible Fellowship or other opportunities (seminars, webinars, workshops, conferences, etc.)
  • Small Groups that help people discover God’s word and his people in a deeper way.
  • Specialized small groups designed to offer a forum for the questioning and a support for the struggling.
  • Well-planned prayer meetings would also help maintain focus in, and excitement about how God is working in and through the various ministries of the church.

Find

The choice of the word “find” for ministry to unbelievers is deeply rooted in my philosophy of evangelism. I often view the evangelist as a kind of spiritual midwife. We are not the parent, but we are there to aid in the birthing process. The relationship of the pre-natal child and the parent has long been established and the midwife would not think of doing anything to hinder that relationship. Therefore, rather than striving for a decision or to manufacture spiritual sensitivities, prayerful efforts should be made to discern those in whom God is already working and seek to be an asset in that process.

We need to teach evangelism as a lifestyle proving ourselves good stewards of God’s grace. Teaching on evangelism should be careful to equip the experienced without overwhelming the novice. Telling people about God’s involvement in our lives should be a natural outflow of a child in love with her Father.  We must also reinforce the truth that we are in partnership with God and not resemble a multi-level-marketing strategy.

While many choose to focus their efforts on the saved or the unsaved, I am greatly indebted to training from Child Evangelism Fellowship who taught that you may never really know where your audience is spiritually. Therefore, each Bible teaching should include a point of application for the saved and a point of application for the unsaved.

Family

I am thoroughly convinced of the communal nature of the Body of Christ.  Not only does God save us, he also adopts as children into his family where we can be encouraged, nurtured, and developed to maturity.  The sheer volume of “one-another” passages in the Bible clearly show that Christian fellowship is not just a nice fringe benefit but an essential dynamic of God’s plan.

Hebrews 10:19-25 also show how this should be a key component of our regular gatherings.  I am concerned that this could be a missing ingredient in many churches in our day.  Beyond the obvious reason of meeting to worship God, the author of Hebrews helps us to realize one of the purposes of meeting together is to encourage one another.  We are to follow Jesus’ example and come together to serve rather than be served.  Interestingly, if everyone comes together with that mindset each member will leave having served and having been served as well.

“Let us encourage one another” is not just an empty or fluff command.  Webster defines encouragement as “to impart courage.”  Then defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear, and difficulty.”  This is exactly the spirit the author is trying to instill in his readers.  As we encourage each other, we are to spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  I can’t help but wonder what God could do in our world through bands of believers who regularly leave our gatherings encouraged by the body and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Up till now, I’ve been trying to help us understand the need for encouragement in our day. In Part 1, we explored the impact of a culture that focuses on the negative. In Part 2, we considered the impact of fear-based marketing tactics. We could continue to explore the reasons people need to be encouraged. But, I’d like to shift the focus to the positive.

A little encouragement can make a big difference. You can even start small.

Encouragement tip #1: Validate Existence!

Some people have been so abused or neglected by so many people, that just saying hello will make a difference in their day.

For example, the movie musical, Chicago, has a sad-sack character, Amos Hart, who exemplifies this. His big solo reveals the depth of his self-esteem crisis…

John C. Reilly as Amos Hart. Photo: https://www.facebook.com/ChicagoMovie

John C. Reilly as Amos Hart.
Photo: https://www.facebook.com/ChicagoMovie

And even without clucking like a hen
everyone gets noticed, now and then,
Unless, of course, that personage should be
Invisible, inconsequential me!

Cellophane
Mister Cellophane
Should have been my name!!!!
Mister cellophane
’cause you can look right through me
Walk right by me
And never know I’m there!

Now, his character is written to be somewhat likable and largely pathetic at the same time. John C. Reilly does a masterful job at portraying this. As if the lines above don’t paint enough of a picture, when the lawyer (played by Richard Gere) suggests Amos should divorce his wife, Amos rises to his feet and shouts, “I’ll divorce her!” Then he catches himself and says, “She probably won’t even notice.”

Continue Reading…

Three Parenting Wins

September 15, 2016

It made my day when my daughter, Grace now 25, mentioned something that I repeatedly tried to teach my kids. She said something close to, “like you always told us …” It made my heart all warm and fuzzy inside for quite some time to realize that something I considered a foundational value or principle got through.

Young girl on dad's shoulders at the shore.

I’d like to share today three parenting wins that at least one of my kids heard and continues to have as a core value. In the next few days, I hope to elaborate on each of these principles. For now, here is a brief overview of the three principles

1.  Don’t Scream Unless It’s an Emergency.

For some reason, young children especially girls, can have a tendency to scream as they’re having fun. I remember trying to help my kids to realize that if they were always screaming when there is no danger, it could be hard to know when they were really in need of immediate assistance.

Now parents might be saying I can tell the difference between the screams. You might be right but I didn’t want to take the chance. Plus, a little less noise pollution in the world is always a good thing.

2.  Stop Means Stop.

This was a rule that we had especially when the kids were young. Inherent in the rule was the idea that even the youngest or smallest was empowered to stop whatever activity was going on if they were getting hurt in the process. Continue Reading…

I have two questions for you.

  1. Do you have a safe place?
    A judgement-free zone.  A place where you can feel free to share what’s on your mind without worrying that people will be so scandalized they’ll never talk to you again.
  2. Do you have a stretching place that challenges you?
    A mediocrity-free zone. A place that inspires you and motivates you to be better.

We need both. We need a place where we can be accepted as we are AND a place where we can be challenged to be more than we ever thought we could be. We need a place that can handle the worst in us AND a place that brings out the best in us.

We call it “a safe place” or “a stretching place”, but really the “place” is secondary to the relationships that happen there. The people are what makes the place scary or safe–discouraging or encouraging.

BigStockPhoto.com 65273749 Leungchopan

BigStockPhoto.com 65273749 Leungchopan

A Great Example

As Christ-followers, we have the greatest example of this concept.  God saved us by grace while we were still in sin and had nothing to offer him.  He knew who we were and that we were incapable of pleasing him in our own strength.  But he choose to love, save and even adopt us into his family.  We were accepted and adopted as we were.  THEN, God sets out to help build us into a new creation to display his glory to the world.  Consider these three examples. Continue Reading…

So often, we attend church services all scrubbed up and looking our best.  On the outside, we probably look like we have it all together and life is just one giant juicy peach.  For some of us, that might represent reality for the moment.  For so many others, that perception is just a thin veneer covering over a myriad of hurts, struggles, challenges, confusion and doubts. Not that we are deliberately hiding things. We may not want to bother others with our problems.  We may just enjoy a break from dwelling on them.  Regardless of how together people might seem, most likely, they still need some word of encouragement because walking by faith is challenging and increasingly challenged.

 

Classic image of a boy with his angellic self on one shoulder and his demonic self on the other shoulder.

Walking by Faith

The Christ-follower lives by faith.  “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists… (Hebrews 11:6 NIV)”  The Apostle John wrote his Gospel so we would believe. Paul tells us, “The path we walk is charted by faith, not by what we see with our eyes.” (2 Corinthians 5:7 VOICE)

We place our confidence, our faith, in an unseen Creator God whose ways and very nature amaze and confound the wisest among us.  However, by his grace, he has revealed enough about himself for us to trust him for the aspects we don’t yet understand.  That is the very essence of walking by faith.  It is not a blind faith that hopes (with fingers crossed) that we have made a good choice.  Based on the evidence and experiences we have already evaluated, we make a conscious choice to trust God for the rest.  Faith is central to our walk, but so often…

Walking by Faith is Challenging

Even John the Baptist had second thoughts about Jesus–whom he had baptized and declared Continue Reading…

Consider what happens when we encourage someone.

Definition of ENCOURAGE

1a: to inspire with courage…

Definition of COURAGE

mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty

the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous

Source: Merriam Webster Continue Reading…