Random thoughts on Life, Leadership, & Messy Spirituality

Encouragement – who needs it?

Encouragement – that thing that is all too rare in our world & society today. Sadly, it is all too rare in most churches today as well. This Sunday I will be teaching about how God designed us to “do life” together as a team & a family. The Christian life cannot be done as a solo thing! In the New Testament the phrase “each other” occurs over two dozen times. We are to love each other, help each other, pray for each other, comfort each other, all kinds of things we are supossed to be doing with each other. And a big one in the Christian life  is that we are to be encouraging each other.

For years I have had pastors from all over the country & world contact me when they were struggling in ministry. They would ask for advice, prayer, guidance, & practical help to work through whatever they or their church were facing. I am always baffled by this! It is not as though I have been a pastor for 20 years, well known around the world, and I certainly do not consider myself a wise old sage ready to impart great wisdom & encouragement to others – in fact, I don’t consider encouragement to be a spiritual gift of mine. A while back I asked one of these pastors who had contacted me – “We don’t know each other – why did you contact me?”. He said he had heard from someone, who heard from someone… that I had been through a great deal in life & ministry and that I would be a good person to talk with. Baffling – but amazing how God works!

So, for years God has had me in the very uncomfortable position of helping and encouraging pastors – many of whom have been in ministry much longer than I have. But the reality is that we all (not just pastors) need encouragement – and lots of it! Life & ministry will flat wear you out! I just recieved a Facebook message from a young pastor in New Zealand. He had been following me and our church from half way around the world and God had laid on his heart to pray for & encourage me. It worked! It was a real lift to my spirit to get his encouraging note & know that he was praying for me. But I also noticed in his note a tone that suggested that he was going through some challenging times in ministry. So, I sent him back the following message…

Thanks for the encouragement! As I say “ministry is messy & ministry is constant” – we all need to be encouraged from time to time.

Let me encourage you to hang in there – the weight & responsibility of ministry can get to you some times, you have to fight a lot of battles to accomplish what God has called you to do, and many times you are attacked & take some arrows in the back from those darned “religious” people.

However, it is after you have been through the desert, through the battles, and survived the attacks that you see how God has been working all along. God & I have been through a lot together over the years & I have learned to appreciate the difficult times & the adversity. Because it is in those times that He teaches me the most about me, about Him, & about how He works.

Doing the type of ministry we do & reaching the people God uses us to reach – we/I get a lot of criticism & attacks from other churches, Christians, & pastors – but hey – I live & lead for an “audience of One”!

To your point – after 10 years of full time ministry – there were times early on I viewed this as a burden that I didn’t know if I wanted or if I could do it. But I now know without a doubt that what God has called me to – is the greatest blessing, honor, & privilege God could have given me.

So again, be encouraged my brother! And if God says to charge the gates of hell with squirt guns – Go for it! He’s got your back!

Know that you’re loved,
Pastor Howard

PS. I don’t know what all you may be going through in ministry – but let me share one last thought with you. My wife & I have been through the valleys in ministry & we’ve been to the mountain top (a few times over). During one of those valleys my wife asked me if I thought we would ever get back to the mountaintop? I told her that I believed we would – but if God had other plans that was okay. Then I told her that Moses never got to see the promised land – but that sure didn’t mean that God did not use him in some huge ways.

Hang in there – keep pursuing an intimate personal relationship with God – get after what He has called you to do with reckless abandon – & He will honor & bless you for it!

BTW: If God tells you to go after Moby Dick in a row boat – bring the tartar sauce baby! (think about it!)

I’ll be praying for you – please keep in touch.

Question: Who in your life could use some encouragement today? Who did God just bring to your mind? (BTW: that’s how God speaks to us many times) Give them a call – send them a note – you just might be what God uses today to keep them going.

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2 responses

  1. Jim Koffman

    Howard,

    How timely a message for what you and the EPC family are dealing with today. The Koffman prayers are with you this afternoon, as we lay down our heads down, and in the morning when we all pray together.

    Please give Gary a big bear hug from the Bear and tell him I love him.

    August 6, 2009 at 1:30 am

  2. Jim Miller

    The past few Sunday messages have allowed me to try and focus on what I need to do to be a better man to God, my Wife and kids. I have always tried to get through my issues on my own. Spending time with Gary last night during this rough time makes me realize how important encourgment is. How important our church family is to one another. I could see in his eyes how much he loved and will miss Ronda. For all who read this keep Gary and his children in your prayers.

    August 6, 2009 at 2:59 pm

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