Recently our congregation lost two men of faith: George Segrest and Lloyd Perkins. I invite you to be in prayer for their families.
I have no idea if these two men had any interests in common. Did they both like baseball? Did they vote the same way? No idea. But for me, they had one thing in common. They were encouragers.
On Sundays, Lloyd and Dorothy Perkins almost always sat either directly behind me, or there was one vacant row between us. But nearly every week I would hear behind me, almost in my ear, some word of encouragement. It was usually after the choir sang an anthem— Lloyd loved music and had a passion for singing. He would say, “Outstanding,” or “That was great.”
After worship, nearly every week, Lloyd would shake my hand and say something like, “I’ve been in church all my life and I never heard that perspective before.” You can probably imagine this sort of word isn’t always a compliment for some, but it was for Lloyd. It was a word of encouragement.
George was different. At the end of worship, George would shake my hand and hug me. He never said a word other than, “Thanks Frank,” or something like that. I’ll admit I am not the most touchy-feely guy, but George’s hugs were always welcome. It was his way of sharing a gesture of encouragement.
One of my favorite New Testament characters is Barnabas, whose name means, “son of encouragement.” Barnabas was an early disciple of Jesus, whose many adventures are recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. Barnabas discovered the giftedness of Paul, recently converted to Christianity after oppressing the church as Saul. Barnabas encouraged the disciples to trust and listen to Paul. He and Paul went on several missionary journeys together, always bringing with them a message of encouragement (see Acts 14:22). Both Paul and Barnabas were mentors of young apostles in training, such as Judas and Silas, who, you guessed it, also ministered to the infant churches with a message of encouragement (Acts 15:32).
Paul himself wrote, “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Philippians 2:1-2).
Sharing a word or gesture of encouragement is an easy, quick way to brighten someone’s day. While I am thinking about encouraging words today, let me offer a few to two of my colleagues in ministry who will soon depart Sherman for new settings: the Revs Chris Dowd and Samantha Parson, both of whom serve at First United Methodist Church. Sam and Chris have been spiritual friends of mine for many years, long before we served together in Grayson County. They both have unique gifts for ministry, and I know they have been a great team at First Church. As Chris readies to serve at Christ United Methodist in Plano, and Samantha likewise prepares to serve at First United Methodist Church of Jacksboro, go with this blessing, based on Paul’s words from Philippians. Make my joy complete: faithfully use the gifts God has given you, bringing the message of encouragement, love, and compassion to your new places of ministry. You are both gifts to the people you serve as pastors and spiritual friends.
All of us can be a son or daughter of encouragement. When was the last time you offered an encouraging word or gesture? Hugs don’t work for everyone, but I’ve never met anyone who was uncomfortable with a handwritten note, a text during finals week, a random Facebook note on their wall, or a kind word walking through the hallway on the way to Sunday school. Who can you encourage this week? Give it a try — you might bless someone who is having a rough time, needs a little boost, or is starting a new chapter in life.
Frank Drenner was ordained in 1998 and has served as pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Sherman since July 2016. He is married to Christy, and together they have three sons. Find more from Drenner at http://www.pastorfrankdrenner.com