I’m a big advocate of “one-anothering”, perhaps because it was practiced so effectively in the early church. One-anothering is how Christians are called (and expected) to treat each another – at least from a New Testament perspective.
In the Gospels, Jesus gave us five love directives: (1) love God; (2) love our neighbors; (3) love ourselves; (4) love our enemies; and (5) love one another. Although some of us may have been taught that loving our neighbors is the same directive as loving one another, Jesus and the other New Testament writers appear to differentiate between the two. Jesus said we were to love our neighbors “as ourselves,” but he told us to love one another “as I have loved you.” John expanded on this when he wrote: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16).
When it comes to the core spiritual habits, I’ve found that one of the most church-transforming one-anothers is the instruction to encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11). In fact, the writer of Hebrews calls us to encourage one another daily (3:13). Biblical encouragement, however, isn’t a slap on the back and the delivery of an “atta-boy” or “atta-girl”. Encouragement is a means of building one another up, of helping prepare one another to face tomorrow.
Given that definition, encouragement could be holding each other accountable for regular scripture reading or prayerful listening. Asking another church leader, “What has God been saying to you in your listening time and what are you going to do about it?” is one way to encourage a sister or brother to travel the path faithfully. But as effective as that is, I have to admit the most touching encouragement-inducing question is, “How can I pray for you?” Imagine being a church leader (probably not a stretch for most of you). Now imagine how your ministry, your leadership, your general outlook in life would change if every week a couple of people emailed, texted, or called you – “I’ve just called to ask you how your walk with Jesus is going – and to ask how I can pray for you today.” Notice I was resigned to suggest the call might come but a couple times a week; however, if we’re to take scriptures seriously, you’d be getting a call similar to that every single day. What do you suspect your church culture would be like if every church leader got a couple calls like that every week? What if every church member got those calls?
Of course, this core spiritual habit will only begin to transform your church leadership culture when someone picks up the phone, taps out a text, or sends an email. And we know that if the leadership isn’t practicing the core spiritual habits, the congregation won’t follow suit. And we also know that if the lead pastor isn’t practicing the core spiritual habits, the church’s leadership won’t either.
This is one of those cultural catch-22s. I’ve spoken to so many pastors who confide how moved, touched, and inspired they’d be if only the congregation would make some of those encouragement calls. I listen, but inside I’m shaking my head – they just don’t get it. If they want to get those calls, they’ll have to be the ones who create the culture of encouragement.
So, who have you encouraged in the faith this week? You might as well start now… this article is finished.
Question: How have others encouraged you in the faith? Share your stories in the Comments Section below.
I don’t know if I would say someone has encouraged me in faith, but I do have a mentor I meet with regularly. He will let me talk about what’s on my mind, then ask if there is anything else I want to discuss, assuring me he is there for me. He always says an encouraging word, but also challenges me to explore faith deeper, and ministry deeper.