Book Review: Encouragement, by Mark Chanski
Mark Chanski. Encouragement: Adrenaline for the Soul. Reformation Heritage Books, 2019. 175 pages.
S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-Fil-A, once asked, “How do you identify someone who needs encouragement? That person is breathing.”
To Cathy’s point, I have never met an over-encouraged person. This is no surprise. We live in a fallen world full of discouragement. Knowing this, the Bible commands that the local church be a place where daily encouragement abounds (Heb. 3:13; 10:24–25). A central emphasis among the apostles in the early days of church expansion was the ministry of encouragement (Acts 13:15; 14:22; 15:31–32; 16:40; 18:27). Much like a product flying off of the shelves, encouragement is in high demand, but in all too many of our churches, it is in short supply.
For that reason, Mark Chanski’s book, Encouragement: Adrenaline for the Soul, is such—if I may say so—a truly encouraging read. Having read the book and been on the receiving end of the author’s personal “shots of adrenaline” (I know Mark personally), I can assure you that this book has been written by a man who strives by grace to embody the disposition he commends.
This book is a diverse mix of gospel motivation, clear definition, sober reflection, and specific application and is worthy of your purchase, perusal and practice.
Chanski begins the book with the metaphor of adrenaline. Adrenaline is able to push us through difficulty, carry us in hardship, and empower us in weakness. He writes, “What adrenaline is able to chemically and physiologically do for the body, encouragement is able to emotionally and psychologically do for the soul” (5).
Then, in the first chapter, he motivates us with what encouragement accomplishes through a brief survey of Proverbs: encouragement strengthens, gladdens, fattens, sweetens, and enlivens. Knowing that encouragement does not come to even redeemed sinners naturally (otherwise it would not need to be commanded), Chanski supplies us with a broader perspective on the personal benefits of abounding in encouragement. He also roots our motivation to encourage others with the gospel with God’s gracious motivation of us in the gospel. We are called to give to others what God so abundantly supplies to us. In fact, Chanski devotes a whole chapter to the gospel as “the ultimate encouragement.”
With the motivation in view, Chanski guides us into understanding our obligation to encourage others. He gives us a model to follow through an extended look at Paul’s encouraging words to his co-laborers in Romans 16.
Chanski is clear that encouragement can come in a variety of ways. There’s concrete expressions of encouragement like direct commendation, communicating our approval, name recognition, passing on good reports, and cheering others on. But there’s also indirect expressions, too, like appropriate physical touch, body language, and expressing empathy. All of it covers our clear biblical obligation to be encouraging.
The book especially excels in its penetrating diagnosis of why we don’t encourage. Chanski carefully exposes how our sinful self-preoccupation wars against a biblical others-orientation.
It’s helpful to know why we should encourage and what it looks like to do so. But if we really want to grow in this, then we need to take an extensive look “under the hood” at what disinclines us from doing so. To be sure, some of Chanski’s examples may be unique to the author’s own experience, but many of his diagnoses will broadly apply.
The latter chapters of the book explore the role of encouragement in three vital areas: marriage, parenting, and the church. These chapters are especially noteworthy for their specific examples and practical takeaways. Any pastor or church member will find more than sufficient “provocation” to good works.
PURCHASE, PERUSE, AND PRACTICE
A word of encouragement: Purchase, peruse, and practice this book. Don’t just purchase it. And don’t just peruse it. Practice it.
And then pray that God would make you, like himself, one who is able to sustain with a word the one who is weary. Like angels who are sent out to bless the people of God, may we do the same to others around us—in our families, local churches, and workplaces. As a husband, parent, friend, and pastor, this book makes me want to be more affirming, attentive, and affectionate.
If you’re like me, you need all the encouragement you can get so that you can be encouraging to others. This book will give you the necessary “adrenaline shot” to get there. An Epi-pen can save someone’s life, so let’s all endeavor to impart grace to our fellow struggling brothers and sisters with our encouraging words and actions (Eph. 4:29).