Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Encourage Encouragement

As a final debrief exercise for the James Bay missions team, I handed out a single sheet of paper to each team member. Each person put their name on the top, then handed the paper to the person on their immediate right. Every person on the team wrote down a note of encouragement, focusing on how they saw Jesus in each other for the past week. I instructed them to be specific in their encouragement; saying "I saw Christ in you when you chose to pick up that gross piece of garbage for me" is far more encouraging than "I think you're cool."

Ninety minutes later, everyone had their sheet of paper back in their hand as we prepared to board the ferry bound for home. The words on the paper were sacred and life-giving, a deeply uplifting moment for our entire team as we headed back to ordinary life.

If we had more time, I would have loved to take the encouragement circle a step further by having each team member sit in the middle of the team. Each team member would look the person in the eye and speak words of grace and encouragement to the person in the middle--what they appreciate about them, ways they saw them grow, moments where they saw the face of Christ in them, etc.

Ephesians 4:29 says this:
 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (NLT)
My dictionary defines the word "encourage" like this: give support, confidence, or hope to (someone). Even when people in the church body have to exhort or admonish us, it should always be done with a spirit of encouragement. We can give spiritual pats on the back or a Jesus-y thumbs up. I can't find any passages in Scripture that command us tear down, demoralize, intimidate, or burn with our speech. God never does this. Even in the harshest of moments, every command and admonishment and rebuke is done out of a heart of love for His people. Any discouraging words or thoughts are likely not from God, which means they stem from brokenness, sin, or the devil himself.

Encouragement is from God. Discouragement is from the enemy. Encourage encouragement.

Who in your life needs you to speak a spontaneous encouraging word today? Don't give in to fear or awkwardness; just say it!

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