‘When I started preaching around 50 years ago, if people wanted to encourage me they would joke, “Now I don’t want you to get a swell head”, as if I was in so much danger of becoming prideful,’ says Brian, a pastor from Cambridge.
‘People were embarrassed to be encouraging. As a culture, we’ve got better, but we’re still not great at it.’ The danger of becoming prideful because you are encouraged, is far less than the danger of being crushed by a lack of encouragement.
In fact, scripture is clear that we must encourage each other: ‘Encourage one another and build each other up,’ says 1 Thessalonians 5:11. Despite what we sometimes believe,
being an encourager is not some magical spiritual gift, it is simply developed with practice.
Look out for what people are doing well. We sometimes think it’s inauthentic to ‘flatter’ someone who has only done an ‘average’ job. But, perhaps, that has more to do with our critical perspective. No one will do a perfect job. And everyone will do something well—even if it’s just being brave enough to give it a go!
When we develop a habit of seeing what people have done well, not what they have done wrong, our encouragement will be authentic and real.
Treat everyone with respect and encouragement. In our church community, we honour the person on the sound desk, as much as the musicians up the front. This can be as simple as saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when giving instructions. ‘From the usher and greeter to the children’s worker and worship leader, the church is the people,’ says Nathan Camp, a pastor with Startchurch. Who could you honour this weekend?
There has been a spiritual school of thought that when you receive honour for yourself, you are taking the honour from God. But the Bible teaches that God is honoured when we honour others. When we applaud someone’s effort, we are giving honour to God through that person. So let’s start clapping and cheering when someone blesses us!
This is not just true in church, but in our work and personal relationships. Lifting someone else up does not make us smaller. Like the Māori value of manaakitanga, when we lift others up, we are all lifted up. It helps create a culture that celebrates, not diminishes, others. This is a radical act.
1. Honour people: It’s easy to forget the unsung heroes. A culture of honour means that we treat the person who cleans the toilets with the same respect as the pastor. Our attitude will affect our actions: a simple ‘thank you’ means so much. When was the last time you thanked someone who works for you?
2. Honour places: Show respect for your environment—your city, church, workplace and home. How can you help keep these places clean? How can you show gratitude to those who serve in these places?
3. Honour the church: There are many other believers in your community who are serving God alongside you. How could you honour what God is doing through them? We are all part of God’s ever-expanding Kingdom!