Be An Encourager.

Recently our congregation lost two men of faith who were regular attendees at the 8:30 service: George Segrest (Kathy Camp's father), died in California last week, and Lloyd Perkins died last Sunday. George's funeral will be in California and Jeanne is likely to remain there. Lloyd's funeral will be here at Grace tomorrow. I invite you to remain in prayer for Jeanne, Kathy, and their family, as well as Dorothy and the Perkins family.

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. Lloyd and Dorothy almost always sat either directly behind me, or there was one vacant row between us. But nearly every Sunday 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." This isn't always the case, but for Lloyd this comment was a compliment. 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 was 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, who 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 (Acts 14:22). Both Paul and Barnabas were mentors of young apostles in training, such as Judas and Silas, who, you guessed it, 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).

Think for a second: 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 refused to accept a hand-written 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.