Do you need encouragement today?

1 thess 5As I pulled into the store parking lot the other day, a lady driving a van was attempting to pull out. She was in the middle of the drive, making it difficult for me to pull in. I was in a hurry and didn’t want to wait for her to exit. Anger rose up in me because she was taking up more than her share of space but, as I pulled even with her, she looked right at me and smiled the nicest smile. I couldn’t help but smile back at her. And I realized that my anger disappeared instantly!

I went inside the store to pick up a few things. I shop there regularly, so I knew where to find what I’m looking for. Not so much that day, however. They were rearranging the entire store! I had to search up one aisle and down the other, then backtrack across the store for something else. Again anger rose up in me. I finally had to approach an employee to ask for something specific. He was very nice and helpful in spite of the chaos surrounding him, and I immediately thought of the lady in the van and her lovely smile. So I smiled at him and wished him a nice day. Again, the frustration I felt dissipated immediately!

Later in the day, I had to go to yet another store. The employee at the check out was having difficulties with the register. I could see her frustration, so I looked her right in the eye, smiled a welcoming smile, and wished her a good day. When I walked away, she was smiling…and so was I.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says that we are to encourage one another and build one another up. Oxford dictionary defines “encourage” as to give somebody hope or confidence.

My daughter has been the best example of this to me. For 10 years she worked for Chick Fil-A, a company known for their high standards for customer service. She learned to smile and speak kindly to each and every customer that came to her counter, regardless of how they treated her. One day we were at a store together and, as we were checking out, my daughter made a point of speaking to the cashier. I, on the other hand, just paid for my merchandise and and gathered up my bags without saying a word. As we walked away, she said, “Mom, you were kind of rude to that cashier, don’t you think?” Certainly I had not intended to be rude; I was simply preoccupied with my purchase. But my daughter was right. I had treated the cashier as though she wasn’t even there.

Do you ever feel invisible? Has anyone ever just walked past you like you weren’t even there? Or ignored you in order to give attention to someone else who is nicer looking or seems more important than you? It’s very hard to have hope or confidence when you feel invisible or ignored.

The good news is that Jesus never looks past you or me. He never acts like we don’t exist. Jesus loves us beyond measure. He loves us enough to sacrifice His life for us. Because I accept His sacrifice and believe His power to raise the dead back to life, I have every hope and confidence that I will indeed be with Jesus for all eternity. And it’s precisely because I have this hope and confidence that I can afford to share it with others. I can smile at anyone and everyone. I can acknowledge every person I meet and speak words of encouragement.

So can you. If you know Jesus, you have the same hope and confidence of life forever with Him. You, too, can afford to encourage others. So as you go about your day today, look for opportunities to lavish encouragement on others. Give the gift of hope and confidence to everyone you encounter. Not only will you encourage them, but you will find yourself encouraged in the process!

And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. -1 Thessalonians 4:17b-18

Cruise Director or Equipper?

You will never have a need for the “new learning” if you haven’t used the “old learning.”

Those challenging words were spoken by Pastor Harvey Carey during the Friday evening session at the LifeServe Conference earlier this month. He was sharing from his experience living out Ephesians 4:11-16 as it related to planting a church in downtown Detroit, Michigan. God called him to Detroit six years ago to plant Citadel of Faith Covenant Church and, as he recounted the story of the early days of Citadel’s formation, I wondered if he was a brave soul following a victorious King or a total lunatic! By the end of his presentation, I was convinced that he’s not a lunatic.

The Lord led Pastor Carey to that Ephesians 4 passage and challenged him to actually do it. And he did. Harvey Carey successfully planted and grew a church with zero staff. Zip. Nada. Just one pastor determined to build a church according to God’s blueprint. (Just this year, Citadel added an executive pastor. Prior to that, it was Pastor Carey, a music minister, and an administrative assistant.)

“The purpose of leadership is not to do the ministry, but to equip those around us to do the ministry.”

When people ask Pastor Carey, How did you do all that ministry with just you?”, he replies that his whole job is to take those people who come every week and equip them to do the work of ministry. He went on to say, “The job of the leader is to equip, to build up, to develop, to train those in our ranks to go out and do the work of ministry. What kind of revolution would there be with your volunteers if they quit coming to meetings expecting you to provide every single detail of what they are supposed to do, but instead you equip, train, encourage and exhort them in the things they are uniquely gifted to do and release them to the world to do the ministry, then come back together and do it all over again?”

Something else he said really hit home with me. “Why do we have singles ministry, men’s ministry, women’s ministry, youth ministry…? Why have we made it ministry to those people rather than ministry by those people. We are like cruise directors who entertain and come up with new ideas to make that group happy. Who said that is the biblical model for ministry? Do you know how much money is wasted in the Body of Christ on staff who are glorified cruise directors as opposed to having individuals who are gifted to help equip those in the ministry to do the ministry? While they are doing the work of ministry, they build community, build relationships, do life together, and then they grow as they do the ministry!”

Before we ask for “new learning,” perhaps we should examine whether we are actually using the “old learning!” I encourage you to visit Citadel’s website at http://citadeloffaith.org to see what happens when a leader actually uses the “old learning.” And then you may want to ask yourself if you have become a glorified cruise director… or are you an equipper: one who intentionally equips, encourages, exhorts and releases those God brings to you so that they are doing the ministry?