Wednesday, November 16, 2011


On a short-term mission in 2004, I experience several fairly rough weeks. The trip culminates in a big community outreach event: a rock concert, performed by a band of young guys from our team. The play list includes songs with an evangelical message, wrapping up with twenty minutes or so of pure worship, and a gospel presentation. The event is successful for the usual reasons—people hear about Jesus, and believe what they hear, thank God! It is also precisely what I need at this moment. The music is balm. It changes me, much for the better.

Catherine Fruisen
I have work to do after the show but in the middle of the commotion I scramble to find the guys to thank them. I want to assure them that, on top of everything else, God used them to patch me up. My motive is the Golden Rule. I'm not seeing a whole lot of fruit from my particular role in this mission; hearing a kind word from anyone would mean the world to me, so I assume the same would be true for them. My new mission in this moment is to encourage the band. When I finally find them and get their attention, I give them my words of love and appreciation. And they brush me off. Totally.

Change the location, people and situation, repeat a thousand times, and here we are today, seven years later. My mission to encourage fellow believers who have blessed me has been poo-pooed so often, I've lost count. Having been on the receiving end of many accolades and pats-on-the-back myself, I understand the dilemma. God said, "I will not give my glory to another."  I know that it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. We're all worthless sinners; even our best works are no better than filthy rags. On the other hand, consider this: rather than having devoted the last two months of your life to organizing the event for which I am commending you, you could have chosen to ignore God's call. You could have spent that time sitting on the couch in your den eating pretzels, watching CSI. So you see, you did have a part to play! Good job, friend!

"Words of Affirmation" are a Love Language; some of us really need those words. Obviously God knows this, which is why encouragement is a gift of the Holy Spirit. We all have a God-given need to give and receive encouragement: for some of us, giving encouragement is our strongest gift. If Mama raised you right (which of course she did), you know it's rude to refuse a gift. If we don't learn to receive, others are denied the opportunity to give.

On behalf of my fellow Exhorters, I would like to extend an invitation to believers everywhere: As a Church, let's reconsider basic etiquette.  Embrace a simple "Thank you." If you really must add your standard, "It was all God, I had nothing to do with it," by all means, go for it. Meanwhile, I've got my carefully-thought-out reply ready to go: "You're welcome!"

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11

No comments: