Summary: In these difficult days before Jesus comes, to encourage your church family to excel, appreciate your leaders, one another, God’s plan, and God’s Spirit at work in each other.
A loaded [SUV] pulled into the only remaining campsite. Four teenagers leaped from the vehicle and began feverishly unloading gear and setting up a tent. The boys then rushed off to gather firewood, while the girls and their mother set up the camp stove and cooking utensils. A nearby camper watched in awe and remarked to their father, “That sir, is some display of teamwork.” The father replied, “I have a system. No one goes to the bathroom until the camp is set up.” (James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited, p.384)
Wow! What a way to encourage your family to work together.
I wonder if that would work with the church family: “No one goes to the bathroom until all the work is done.” Probably not, so the question remains: How do you encourage teamwork in the church? How do you motivate one another to meaningful service? How do you help one another excel in these difficult days before Jesus returns? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to 1 Thessalonians 5, 1 Thessalonians 5, where the Bible shows you how.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore [in light of Christ’s soon return] encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
So how do you do that?
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13a We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. (ESV)
If you want to encourage your church family to excel, first of all...
APPRECIATE YOUR LEADERS.
Respect them for their hard work. Lovingly honor them for their direction and determination to serve.
Now, that’s easy to do when you have a good leader, one who never preaches a bad sermon, one who is always there when you need him, and one whose administrative skills are second to none. But what do you do with the average leader? He has a good sermon some of the time. He is not always available, and he would rather be torn apart by wild beasts than administer anything. That’s the kind of pastor you might be tempted to dismiss.
M. R. DeHaan, founder of the Radio Bible Class, which produces the Our Daily Bread devotional, talked about a time when a group of people came from a neighboring church to see him. They were looking for advice on some convenient and painless way to get rid of their pastor. He said, “I’m afraid, however, that I wasn’t much help to them.” Later on, he pondered the matter a great deal and decided that the next time anyone came to him for advice on how to get rid of a pastor, he would tell them:
1. Look the pastor straight in the eye while he’s preaching and say “Amen” once in a while and he’ll preach himself to death.
2. Pat him on the back and brag on is good points and he’ll probably work himself to death.
3. Rededicate your life to Christ and ask the preacher for some job to do, preferably some lost person you could win to Christ, and he’ll die of heart failure.
4. Get the church to unite in prayer for the preacher and he’ll soon become so effective that some larger church will take him off your hands. (You and Your Pastor, Radio Bible Class)
The congregation makes the pastor as much or more than the pastor makes the congregation. When a congregation appreciates their pastor, he becomes a great pastor. However, when a congregation does not appreciate their pastor, he is at best a mediocre pastor.
Let me just say this: You do a good job showing your appreciation for me. Sandy and I are often overwhelmed by your expressions of love, so much so that I don’t want to give you anything less than my best. And if there’s anything “great” about this preacher, it’s not because of who HE is what HE does. It’s because of who YOU are and what YOU do to encourage him along the way.
If you want your church family to excel, 1st, appreciate your leaders. Then 2nd...
APPRECIATE ONE ANOTHER.
Get along with each other. Help each other grow in the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 5:13b Be at peace among yourselves.
In other words, live in harmony with each other. How?
1 Thessalonians 5:14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (ESV)
To live in harmony with each other, you must admonish the idle or the unruly. Warn those who are disruptive.
Gordon MacDonald talks about the time several years ago when he was in Japan on a close speaking tour with a close personal friend, who was much older than he. As they walked down the street in Yokohama, Japan, the name of a common friend came up, and MacDonald said something unkind about that person. It was sarcastic. It was cynical. It was a put-down. MacDonald said, “My older friend stopped, turned, and faced me until his face was right in front of mine; and with deep, slow words he said, ‘Gordon, a man who says he loves God would not say a thing like that about a friend.’”