Walking in close to time to start, we selected seats that were empty hoping no one claimed them as their regular seats. We know church folks like their regular seats, and we were visitors. Worship began as we all stood for a song that signaled for the chatter of conversation to end. As our voices blended, I felt as if this was a congregation of people who loved to sing and seemingly loved the Lord. Worshipping with them was uplifting and I recall that the sermon was easy to listen to as well as to understand. At the end of the assembly one of the leaders made a few announcements, complimented the assembly on the singing and for being a friendly church, and mentioned there were guests that morning. He then encouraged everyone to take a moment after the prayer to greet those visiting. He closed with a prayer and dismissed the congregation. We stood in the area waiting for the couple on the pew with us to greet us and watching as others filed pass, gathering their friends while trying to beat other churches to the restaurants. After a moment of awkward silence, I took initiative and introduced us mentioning we were visiting from out of town. A look of relief came across their faces, they were also from out of town and were wondering why we were not introducing ourselves to guests. Then we all came to the realization of the irony that two groups of visitors had to greet each other because no member did.
Sadly, this is a scene that replays week after week in congregations of God’s people everywhere. We claim to be friendly and welcoming, but we don’t always follow through with our actions.
We can learn from Barnabas in Acts 4:36-37, “Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
How can we grow more like Barnabas? How can we better encourage one another?
We can encourage by our example. Barnabas sold land brought profit. The statement, “Most people would rather see a sermon,” rings true. We need to live an active faith, so “that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” Rom 1:12
We can encourage with our words. Barnabas encouraged the apostles to accept Saul – Acts 9:27. Each of us can choose our words carefully and use them to build up others – Eph 4:29.
We can encourage with our presence by being there with each other and for each other. In Acts 11:25 Barnabas went to Tarsus to find Saul and encourage him to be a part of encouraging the church. Your presence with other Christians in fellowship is important, Heb 10:24-25.
How can I be more like Barnabas? How can I encourage others? Here are a few ideas.
Twenty Ideas for Being an Encourager
- Look for the lonely and reach out to them.
- Pay attention to the (small) details and acknowledge what others miss.
- Don’t miss the bashful and shy.
- Listen closely to what’s going on in people’s lives.
- Pray for opportunities to encourage.
- At times, encourage anonymously.
- Remember those who are usually behind the scenes.
- Put yourself in the place of others.
- See through Christ-like eyes.
- Find happiness in encouraging and joy in others enjoying encouragement.
- Consider encouragement a sacred duty.
- Do an act of service for an unsuspecting other.
- Be a meaningful and genuine giver of compliments free of selfish motives.
- Remember that encouragers are church growers.
- Don’t overlook the frustrated (young parents, teens, unemployed, and newly divorced).
- Mentally walk a mile in the potentially encouraged one’s shoes.
- Find exciting, unusual ways to make someone’s day.
- Appreciate the value of a handwritten note or card (especially in our virtual world).
- Reach out to the “marginalized” (new members, the poor, those who attend alone, the elderly, widows, widowers, etc.)
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11.