I stay within the South. In my city, tiny church buildings pepper each road, avenue, and alley. We’ve got plenty of very nice folks. We’re well mannered, generally to a fault.
Small-town Southern tradition is nice in some ways, however it could actually complicate church life significantly. In a metropolis the place everyone seems to be a “member” of a church, it’s exhausting to know who’s a real disciple and who isn’t. Everybody is sweet, however have they been made new? And even when somebody has been made new, our genteel Southern methods can get in the way in which of our development in sanctification.
Mere Niceness Is Overrated
One Sunday, I used to be filling the pulpit for a buddy. I hazily bear in mind stepping down from the pulpit, folding my manuscript in my palms, and crumbling into my seat. I had simply completed preaching one of many worst sermons in 2,000 years of church historical past. And, as if on cue, a number of folks handed me on the way in which out and stated, “Thanks! You did great.”
The factor is, I didn’t.
I do know the Lord can use unhealthy sermons. However I’m right here to let you know that I didn’t do an important job that day. Or an okay job, even. I preached a foul sermon.
That have left me questioning. How am I ever going to get good suggestions on my educating if nobody will look me within the eyes and inform me the reality? Regardless of how unhealthy a job you do at preaching, it may be exhausting to search out somebody who received’t lovingly smile and say you probably did a superb job and thanks on your service. The center behind this dynamic is nice—full of heat, love, and sympathy. However is it at all times wholesome?
I might argue that it’s not.
Just a few years later, I used to be sitting in my new pastor’s workplace in Washington, D.C. A bunch of males from the church gathered on Sunday evenings to debate the church’s ministry actions all through the week and the way they may be improved. It was known as “service review,” and right here I first noticed the excellence between being encouraging and being merely good. Flattery and encouragement are totally different, I spotted. For encouragement is godly, however flattery is sin.
Flattery vs. Encouragement
Flattery is outlined as “excessive and insincere praise, given especially to further one’s own interests.” A lot of what passes for encouragement in our church buildings as of late is flattery in disguise. Although we might not essentially be attempting to additional our personal pursuits, a few of our positivity is extreme and insincere.
A lot of what passes for encouragement in our church buildings is flattery in disguise.
Biblically talking, nonetheless, encouragement is rarely extreme; it’s actual. It’s by no means insincere; it’s at all times an overflow of the guts. I first noticed this in these service-review conferences. A Sunday-school trainer would obtain suggestions (often a combination of critique and encouragement), and the optimistic suggestions was at all times particular and concrete. There was by no means any, “You did a good job, bud. Thanks.” The suggestions often sounded extra like, “I thought you did a great job with your illustrations today. I can tell you’ve been working on them. So good job taking feedback and applying it to your lessons. The body was really built up by your service today.”
I believe a superb, pocket-sized definition of encouragement would possibly go one thing like this: Encouragement is stating the grace of God within the lives of others.
Extra could be stated, after all, however I imagine this sentence carries the freight of the that means pretty effectively.
In Acts 11, Luke tells us about an important work of the Lord that broke out in Antioch. Many had been turning to Christ for salvation. When the church in Jerusalem heard about it, they despatched out Barnabas to be their eyes and ears: “When [Barnabas] came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose” (v. 23).
Do you see that? Barnabas noticed the grace of God; it excited him; after which he informed them about it. “I see the hand of the Lord here,” he stated. “Keep going!”
And that, buddies, is encouragement.
Let’s resist the urge to merely be good. As an alternative, let’s search for actual proof of God’s grace at work in others’ lives—after which level it out to them.