If you know me, you know I am full of very strange stories, all of which are completely true. Yesterday, I added another tale to my ever-growing list.
In addition to helping plant a new campus of my church, I teach a Bible study group for 10th grade guys. They keep me plugged into todays culture. I try to help them apply the Bible to their life. It’s a good partnership. They teach me 100 times as much as I teach them. About once a month, we walk across the street to a fast food place to get a drink and talk about life and their walk with Christ in a more informal atmosphere.
As I am getting ready to pay for our drinks, a young woman I have never seen before walks up to me and asks if she can talk with me for a moment. We walk a few steps away from the cash register and she hits me with this.
“My husband and I come here for breakfast on Sunday mornings and we have seen your group come in here for quite a while,” she said. “I just want you to know what you are doing is fantastic. I hear the things you talk about with them, and I see whats happening in their lives, I just want you to know you are giving me hope about the future because of what I see happening with them.”
I didn’t even have the presence of mind to invite her to my church because I was so shocked by what she said. I was completely taken aback by a compliment that seemed to come out of nowhere.
Heres the point: When was the last time you gave someone who serves in your church a compliment?
That hurts doesn’t it? When it comes to church, we are completely comfortable with carving up the pastors message, criticizing the music, talking about the small group leaderҒs lame questions or in general, what missed the mark.
There are 12 references in scripture to encouragement, and interestingly enough, most of them occur in Acts, where the rapid, supernatural, God-breathed growth of the early church is chronicled. I believe growth, unity, compliments and encouragement are all closely connected. You see it clearly in Acts.
Pauls sermon at Antioch recorded in Acts 13:15 is my favorite:
“After the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them saying, Brothers, if you have any message of encouragement for the people, you can speak.”
Loose translation: Have something good to say? Then say it—NOW! We need to hear it!
One of my favorite theologians outside the Bible, Mark Twain, said it this way:
“I could live for two months alone on the strength of a single compliment.”
Your Bible study leaders need a word of encouragement. The people who teach and care for the children in your church need it. Your pastor needs it. Your student minister needs it. Your church secretary needs it. Everyone needs it.
I want to extend this thought even further. Other churches need it, too. Their pastors, staff and leaders need a kind and loving word as well. There are days when it seems like taking turns attacking other churches has become a hobby of the Fellowship of the Miserable. If people are being saved and they are being taught the truth of the Bible, we should be complimenting, applauding and encouraging churches other than our own.
Doing church is hard. Growing in your Christian life is hard. Planting a church is even harder. If you are not willing to speak a word of encouragement, love and compliment to a fellow laborer in the church, my question is, who will?
Perhaps it might be a stranger in a burger joint. It should be standard operating procedure for all of us. Let’s all strive to be like Barnabas, a Son of Encouragement.