Why it’s imperative and how to implement it
By Reid Smith
We all need encouragement! We need people who speak hope and build confidence into our lives so that we can consistently live in a manner that’s worthy of the gospel of Christ (Php 1:27). This is why God commands us to encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thes 5:11). Encouragement is one of the spiritual gifts explicitly referenced in the New Testament and it’s so important that God tells us it should be a daily practice (Rom 12:8; Heb 3:13).
Human beings are hardwired for encouragement and there’s no shame in this. The Apostle Paul expressed how encouragement was a primary goal of his ministry and how it is a fundamental responsibility of God’s people (2 Cor 13:11; Col 2:2). Encouragement is fuel for our faith enabling us to run with perseverance and overcome hurdles as we run the race marked out for us (Heb 12:1).
Encouragement has empowering effects for our faith and how we live it out. Here are three reasons why we should be intentional and proactive about encouraging our pastors and group leaders:
- It reminds us we need one another. The flame of faith needs to be repeatedly stoked by encouragement. Throughout the New Testament, we see how the early believers supported and emboldened one another. Paul commented on how he was personally encouraged and how encouragement filled the felt needs of others (2 Cor 7:13; 1 Thes 3:7).
- It strengthens our faith. There is a real connection between the fellowship of the saints and the encouragement we need to live out our faith in Kingdom-advancing ways (Ecc 4:9-12; Heb 10:24-25). Our faith grows stronger in the company of spiritual friends who love Jesus and want to live for Him (Prov 27:17; Rom 1:12).
- It helps us overcome sin. Hebrews 3:13 says, “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” This reveals how one of the side-effects of sin’s deceitfulness is hardened hearts. Encouragement, on the other hand, counteracts this and softens our hearts so that we can be more attune to the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives, hear God’s truth, and walk in obedience. Sin speaks lies whereas encouragement speaks life that is found in God’s truth.
For these reasons and many more, find a way to build encouragement into the way you regularly communicate with your group leadership and create a delivery system for them to do the same with people in their groups. For example, at my church we train our group leaders to do four things with their group members every time they meet together. We use the acronym E.S.P.N., which stands for Encouragement, Scripture, Prayer, Next Steps. In other words, we challenge group leaders to speak life and Scripture over their group members, pray for them, and encourage them in their next steps every time they gather.
You’re echoing God’s heart and words when you call your group leaders to be people who are deliberate about speaking life into others. There are countless practical ways to do this whether your words are delivered in-person or online, by mouth or by text:
- Remind others of God’s Presence, power, and promises.
- Affirm virtues you see in others and the impact they have on others.
- Challenge people to exercise their God-given spiritual gifts in new ways.
- Talk about God’s grace, Jesus’ sacrifice, our deliverance and redemption.
- Help people develop an eternal perspective and think about excellent and praiseworthy things (Php 4:8).
- Let people know you’re praying for them and find practical ways that you can actually carry their burdens with them (Gal 6:2).
- Sometimes an uplifting note, a gift, or gesture of love showing another person you believe in them and you’re thinking of them goes a long way.
God is the source of faith-building encouragement and He calls each and every believer to be a conduit of His love in this way (Rom 15:5). Encouragement has a way of reminding us that we are known and not alone. It’s a light that penetrates the darkness of sin’s lies and ushers us into deeper expressions of community where we can be fully known and fully loved. For these reasons and more, it’s imperative you find a way to infuse your church’s community life with this empowering practice!
Reid Smith has been equipping leaders in churches of all sizes and stages of growth for effective disciple-making since 1996. He lives in Wellington, Florida where he serves as a Groups Pastor at Christ Fellowship. You can find more of his helpful resources at www.reidsmith.org.