Barriers to Encouragement (6)
And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. Acts 3.7, 8
The seven last words of the Church
You have no doubt heard the “seven last words of the Church”: “We never did it that way before.” Churches get stuck in no-growth ruts sometimes because they stick to familiar ways of doing things rather than carefully reviewing their work each year to make sure they’re on track with Scripture in all things.
I recall once teaching a seminar on the work of shepherding, using the six disciplines of the Good Shepherd Jesus outlined in John 10 as the framework of my talk. It was clear during my time of teaching that the men present – leaders and elders in their church – had no experience with what Jesus described. They were just serving on committees, running programs, and functioning as a board. They had no real hands-on experience caring for the Lord’s sheep.
At a break in the seminar, one of the elders approached me and said, “T. M., this is really good stuff you’re teaching us. I can see how it reflects the work Jesus did. But you know, we live in the real world…”
I interrupted him right there, saying, “No, my friend, we do not live in the real world. The real world is the world God is calling us to create by doing the work He has given us to do, in the way He has determined it should be done, by the power and courage of His Holy Spirit. Shepherding,” I explained, “is the real world. Running programs and serving on boards is not.”
This same problem – lack of experience, and the accompanying inability to see how we might begin to do God’s work God’s way – also affects us individually. I was teaching a course for pastors which included a segment on personal evangelism. On the first day of the course, I gave an overview of the week, and mentioned that on Wednesday we would be going out to the street corner downtown to do some evangelism, using a questionnaire.
At the noon break, a pastor approached me saying he was not going to be able to continue. I was concerned there might be a problem back home. “No, no,” he said, “I’ve just never done this before.” “Done what?” I asked. “That evangelism thing,” he explained. “Oh,” I said, “don’t worry. None of the guys in this course have ever done it this way before, either. We’ll practice together in the morning before…”
He interrupted me: “No, that’s not what I mean. I’ve been a pastor for fourteen years,” he said, “and I have never shared the Gospel personally with anyone.” Inexperience was shutting the door to courage in his soul.
“Well, my friend,” I said, “on Wednesday, that’s going to change.” And it did. I took him out with me and instructed him to watch and pray as I stopped people and asked permission to take a questionnaire with them. Then I said, “You’re on.” He stood statue-like as a few people walked past him. I prayed for him to have courage, and about that time, he stepped in front of a young man and said, “Hi, my name is (he gave his name), and we’re out here taking a questionnaire about the Bible. Would you be willing to answer a few questions?” “Sure, why not?” said the young man. The pastor took him through the questionnaire, only to discover he was already a believer. Then, before I could say anything, he stopped two more people. Then more.
He wasn’t exactly leaping and praising God; but a helping hand seems to have helped break him free from his lack of experience.
Two years after this, I was working in my study one day when the phone rang, and it was this pastor. “I have a problem,” he said: “I’ve shared the questionnaire with every person in our village. What do I do now?”
Nice problem, huh?
All things new
It's important for us as believers to remember two things: In Jesus Christ, we are new creations; old things have passed away, and all things have become new (2 Cor. 5.17). We have new attitudes to develop, new desires to nurture, new visions to pursue, new tasks to undertake, and new experiences to enter. If we’re not constantly pressing against the boundaries of old things, to break through to the promised new things of Jesus, then we need to consider carefully whether we have in fact become that “new creation” Paul talked about (cf. 2 Cor. 13.5).
Second, we can find in Jesus the courage to take on new things as we grow in Him, learn His ways, and walk by His Word and Spirit day by day. He will make new things more our daily fare – new conversations, new insights, new plans and undertakings (Rev. 21.5). He is at work within us to will and do according to His good pleasure, not our convenience or experience (Phil. 2.13). And His good pleasure is to bring us to new things – new heights of vision, new forms of growth, new relationships, new skills, and new works of ministry.
We must not hide behind the “I’ve never done this before” excuse, lest we miss the excitement, the thrill, and the joy of following Jesus out on the waves of this boisterous world, as He makes all things new in and through us.
Find a friend
Sometimes the best way to get going in the new things of the Lord is to connect with a friend who has “been there, done that” and can lead you out onto the waves in the courage of the Lord. God is often pleased to use people in our lives to encourage us to stretch out into the newness of Jesus. Susie has done that for me more times than I could count. God has brought others into my life to encourage me into new areas of growth and new arenas of ministry – places I had not experienced before, but which became exciting challenges of newness in the Lord.
Find friends who will stretch you, take you with them, walk with you through some dark valley into the bright light of a new phase in your life, teach you new things, and encourage you to venture into new areas of life and faith with Jesus. Then become that kind of friend with others. Let the Lord encourage you through believers who are growing in the knowledge, love, and service of our Lord Jesus; and then make sure that whatever you learn, whatever new experiences you encounter, you share them with others, to encourage them as well.
We don’t have to be stuck in a no-growth zone as believers. Think: All things new! Pray for new opportunities and challenges. Seek to learn new things. Explore new ways of serving others, starting conversations, and building others up in love. You can walk on waves of newness with Jesus, if only you will allow Him to encourage you in the way only He can.
1. Why should we never use inexperience as an excuse for not doing something new in the Lord?
2. How have you experienced Jesus making all things new in your life? In which areas of your life would you like to see more newness?
3. Whom can you encourage to some new aspect of life in Jesus today? Who will encourage you?
Next steps – Transformation: Think of one area of your walk with and work for the Lord where you would like to experience something new today. What’s the first step? Take it as soon as possible.
T. M. Moore
Resources for the Journey
If you missed our ReVision series, “Which Works?”, you can download all five installments by clicking here. Our book, The Kingdom Turn, can help you better understand why the Gospel is both a gift and a calling. Order your copy by clicking here – it’s free!
Thanks to our Lord!
Will you join us to give thanks to God for His faithful support of our ministry, and to ask Him whether you should participate in this opportunity? If the Lord moves you to give, you can use the Contribute button at the website to give with a credit card or through PayPal, or you can send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.
Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.