It’s often hard being a pastor. People really expect a lot from us and we’re not all equipped with the same gifts. We don’t all serve in the same ways. I believe Paul was aware of that when he explained the responsibility of those with certain gifts. He says, God “gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Paul realized that if one person, or even if just a few people, are called upon to do all the “work of the ministry” they would do a poor job and would eventually burn themselves out. A pastor’s role should be to equip the congregation to care for the needs of the many members. How the congregation is to care for itself is expressed in the many “one another” passages in the bible. One way we are called to take care of one another is through encouragement.

The Greek word for encouragement is “parakaleo.” It literally means “to come along side.” While in the Navy I made a Mediterranean cruise and two western pacific cruises. When at sea for a long time, ships often run low on fuel, food or fresh water. They may also need a particular part because of some kind of damage. These needs are met by other ships that “come along side” and transfer to the depleted vessel whatever is needed to get on with its mission. It’s the same for us Christians. In the course (cruise) of life we too run low on resources. We need other Christians (vessels) to come along side and help us out. We often need to be refueled, resupplied, or fixed.

There are three kinds of encouragement we might need. The first kind is when we suffer a loss in life or are “broke” by life’s painful circumstances. Paul addressed the Thessalonians when they saw their loved ones die. He explained that we need not let the grief of such a loss overwhelm us. He wanted them to know that their loved ones were not lost, but were with the Lord and one day we’d see them again. He said, “we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” He adds “Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18). We are also called to encourage one another in their service to the Lord and God’s people. We need to be refueled at times.  The author of the book of Hebrews tells us, “and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…(Hebrews 10:24-25) Further are to encourage one another to live godly lives as well and stay away from sin’s ravages. Hebrews 3:12-13 says, “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

“But God has so composed the body…that the members may have the same care for one another.” 1 Corinthians 12:24-25