How to Encourage Your People Just Like the Apostle Paul

Article
09.04.2018

This might sound gimmicky, I know. But stay with me.

As a faithful pastor, you pray for your congregation. So do I. Specifically, I like to pray through a portion of our membership directory each day.

However, I have found that adding one small activity to this prayer time tends to produce good fruit fast. How? By writing a personal note of encouragement to a church member I’ve prayed for that day. I was motivated to do so by the example of the apostles in their New Testament letters. These men not only prayed for God’s people but also told them so through encouraging words (Ephesians 1:15–23; 3:14–20; Philippians 1:3–11; Colossians 1:9–11; 1 Thessalonians 1:3–4; 2 Thessalonians 1:11–12; 2 Timothy 1:3; Philemon 1:4–7; 3 John 2).

Some of the most admired pastors in history have done the same. While some of their letters were lengthy, many were not. Charles Spurgeon acknowledged, “We cannot write letters nowadays, but must be content to send mere notes.” He confessed, “I am so pressed that I can only give a brief space to one person, and a rigid economy of time can alone allow even of this.” Nevertheless, Spurgeon’s notes brought great joy to their recipients.[1]

I have found the same to be true with members of my congregation. Handwritten notes are especially effective due to their increasing rarity. They tend to communicate care far better than the countless texts and emails that flood people’s inbox each day.

So, do you want to encourage the people God’s given you to shepherd? Then supplement your prayers with personal notes! They’re God-given mechanisms for making an immediate, positive, and noticeable impact on people.

The New Testament letters show us how to encourage others through writing:

  1. Tell them that you thank God for them and their fellowship in the gospel.
  2. Identify one or two traits that give evidence of God’s grace in their lives.
  3. Share a biblical truth or promise that speaks to their present situation.
  4. Show how they contribute to the overall health and growth of the church.

Ian Hamilton rightly affirms,

Encouragers have Christ-like sight and a Christ-like heart. They are not blind to the sins and weaknesses of fellow Christians, but they recognize that “love builds up. . . . Encouragers are often our great High Priest’s means of ministering his divine sympathy to our bruised and lacerated souls.[2]

“Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thess. 5:11). By investing five minutes per day for five days per week, you will personally encourage through handwritten notes more than 250 church members every year! Plus, that ministry will multiply as God uses your example to foster a culture of encouragement throughout your church.

So, who in your congregation would welcome a note from their pastor today?

FOOTNOTES:

[1] “The Letters of C.H. Spurgeon, Collected and Collated by His Son Charles Spurgeon” [online], http://www.romans45.org/spurgeon/misc/letters.htm.

[2] Ian Hamilton, The Faith Shaped Life (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2017), pp. 98-99.