rediscovering the gift of encouragement

The last three weeks have been dominated by an uplifting and constant stream of encouragement. Thank you!

The Sanctuary - believers and encouragers

For the last few months we have been working away to get the and its worship resources section ready for launch.

Upheld by an amazing sense of God’s presence, the prayers of friends and family, and the security of each others’ support, there was an undeniable safety in this period of hidden creativity.

But we knew pressing the publish button would change all that.

Whilst we were eager to move forward, to involve others in the Sanctuary’s vision, and to reach a point where what we were working on would become more tangible – we were also a bit nervous to step out and face the fear of what ‘they’ would think.

Strangely, whenever any of us risk sharing what is closest to our hearts, we often feel momentarily isolated.

But when we pressed that button, we discovered we couldn’t have been less alone.

One of the CDs we’re listening to a lot at the moment is Jars of Clay presents The Shelter, a collaborative concept album inspired by the community of faith, and an Irish saying which includes the lyric, ‘in the shelter of each other we will live’.

God’s idea of church is more than a loose club of associates – it is a living, breathing organism – a body working together for his purposes; where each part is affected by the actions, joy or pain of all the others – a family of brothers and sisters whose lives will always be interconnected, even if they never meet. (See Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12-14.)

True encouragement is a calling – a gift as spiritual and supernatural as healing. It recognises and affirms what God is doing, and speaks life and empowerment to that. When we experience it, we know it’s power. It literally propels things and people forward – it’s a vital force for making change possible.

But sometimes it feels like it’s a bit of a lost art-form. Perhaps it’s just busyness. But more often than that it seems like it goes deeper – individualism dominates our culture, and if we’re honest, it seeps into our churches too.

We need to rediscover the gift of encouragement. We need to ask God for it; we need to be open to his Sprit prompting us to go out of our way to build each other up; we need to learn to obey even when it’s inconvenient, embarrassing, or for someone we don’t know or may never see again. And we need to be conscious and deliberate in growing as gracious, loving people, who minister affirmation to each other.

Every day of the last three weeks, we have received this kind of encouragement again and again. And it has made all the difference.

We have discovered again that the things God has laid on our hearts, he has laid on yours too. We have been reminded that just as he has asked us to step out in sharing our hearts, he has asked you to step out in sharing yours. We have been shown that we are not in this alone – he is with us. And so are you.

From the team of content-checkers who worked on the site for hours before it went live officially, to the friends and former colleagues who sent messages of enthusiasm and prayerful support when it did.

From the people we’ve realised have truly carried the Sanctuary’s vision in their hearts from day one because they were as emotional as we were when we took this step, to the person we’ve never met who emailed us in excitement that something like this would be happening near her.

From the people who will be around to eagerly watch the next stages grow, to the visitor passing through our mission group at church who owned the vision and prayed as whole-heartedly for its full realisation as we did – as if somehow it was hers too.

Thank you.

And of course our visiting friend was right. Because anything any of us do for the Kingdom is somehow done by all of us – every single vision God gives is simply a fragment contained in the glorious hugeness of Christ’s mission through the church – and he is the ultimate vision and centre of it all.

She really challenged us. For someone passing through the country for four weeks, it might be tempting to be quite passive – but she fully invested in people she may never see again because she truly knows she is part of something bigger than herself, her church, or even her nation.

There should be no ‘individual’ visions in the kingdom. Only individual feet stepping out from the same body to love and serve with its full strength behind them.

That is precisely why we need the gift of encouragement – to spur each other on to do what God is calling us to do – and to provide loving shelter and covering for each other as we do it.

And that is precisely what you have done for us. God bless you believers and encouragers!

One Response to “rediscovering the gift of encouragement”

  1. Jennie says:

    Amazing work – well done.