What Every Pastor/Planter Wishes You Knew - Encourage
This series has been looking at how to offer Christ like support to our gospel partners in ICM. Paul’s example suggests four ways (pray, encourage, visit and give) in which our church planters might be cared for. The last article considered the importance of prayer (click here), this time we will focus on how to encourage.
Recently while travelling, I stopped in an airport shop to buy snacks. As I approached the cashier till, I spotted a display of travel size tissues. On the tissue packets were printed inspirational sayings like, “Believe in Yourself” or “Follow Your Heart.” As I looked at them, I couldn’t help but think how useless those cliche phrases were anyone who might need a tissue! “Believe in Yourself” sounds nice perhaps, but it does not mean anything. Would anyone really feel encouraged by reading that? Thankfully, as we think about encouraging our gospel partners, this is not at all the kind of encouragement we are meant to offer.
The word ‘encourage’ comes from the old French encoragier, which means “to make strong or hearten.”* In other words, ‘encourage’ means to give courage. Stop and think about that for a moment. When you are encouraging a friend, you are not just seeking to comfort them or lift their self-esteem. Through your words, you are giving them the confidence they need to face the issue at hand. Better still, in true Christian encouragement, you are directing that friend to rest in God’s infinite ability.
Paul’s Words of Encouragement
With that definition in mind, how do we encourage our ICM partners? There is an aspect of encouragement in praying, visiting and giving, but here we will focus on speaking words of encouragement. Words of encouragement in Paul’s ministry were shared in the letters he wrote and received. Paul’s letters were primarily written to instruct the church in the faith and knowledge of Christ, but woven throughout his teaching is a line of courage to his readers.
The letter of 2 Timothy is one example of this. Paul has instructions to give Timothy, but his words are more than a how-to manual. Again and again he reminds Timothy of who he is in Christ and all that Christ has accomplished on behalf of the Church. He tells Timothy not to be ashamed of the gospel, but to suffer for the good news in God’s strength (2 Tim 1:8). Paul knows his own time is short and he wants Timothy to have all his confidence in Christ going forward.
Our ICM workers need courage every day. They face obstacles in their work as well as opposition to the gospel they share. They struggle with their own weakness and sin. The World does not want them to succeed and the Enemy is hard at work to deprive them of their courage. As Paul told Timothy, our gospel partners must rely on the power of God in order to be faithful and work unashamedly. However, when their spirits are low or their minds are distracted, who will remind them to look up? Who will call, write or text to say, “Your hope is in Christ?”
Even when things seem to be going well in their church plants and ministries, our ICM friends still need encouraging words that will point them to Christ. It is often in the good times that we are all more tempted to rely on our own strength because it seems to be working! There is a need to constantly reminded to focus on the finished work of Christ. Knowing we’re sinners saved by grace humbles us. Knowing that we are heirs of glory with Christ, fills us with a sense of privilege to serve and suffer for his kingdom. Remembering all that the Lord Jesus has done and promises to do by his Spirit, fills us with boldness to charge forward with his good news. Never underestimate the importance of telling each other as believers what we ought to know so well! Give courage.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
*Definition from: https://www.etymonline.com/word/encourage