The greatest failure is the failure to encourage

Encouraging one another and all the more, as you see the day approaching.”  .-Hebrews 10:25

“They have refreshed my spirit and yours.  Therefore, acknowledge such men” (I Corinthians 16:18).

My journal records a painful episode in the most difficult of my six pastorates.

Because of internal dissension that was directed at me and undermined all we were trying to do in that church, I had asked the deacon leadership to help me deal with the dissenters.  They met, talked it out, then tossed the ball back into my lap.

“We want you to visit in the homes of every deacon (all 24 of them!).  Find out what’s going on in their lives.  Ask them for their personal goals, their hopes and dreams.” Then, at some point I was to ask, “Have I ever failed you in any way?”  The idea was to give the disgruntled the opportunity to tell me to my face what they had against me.  Thereafter, the leadership felt, when anyone start stirring up trouble, it could be dealt with more easily.

So, even though it felt like I was being punished for the sins of the troublemakers, I made the visits, usually three a night.

Most of the deacons and their wives were nice people, even though they had stood by passively while a few did all in their power to destroy their church.  In the visits, not a one could think of any way I had let them down.  One deacon’s wife said she was in the hospital and I did not come to see her.  Another said I had not attended the senior recital of their daughter. I had no memory of either of these events, but asked for their forgiveness.

Not exactly major stuff.  Certainly nothing worth tearing up the church over.

During the eighth visit, however, my journal records a conversation with one of the deacons and his wife.  I told them that throughout all these visits, I was yet to hear the first word of encouragement.  Not one word of encouragement.  My journal says: “The deacon sat there staring, as though he had not heard a word I had said or was speaking some language unknown to him.”

The concept of encouraging a pastor was foreign to them. And please notice, not one person told how I had failed them in some serious way.  Not one.

Which makes you wonder why they were so dead-set on interfering with the ministry God brought me there to do.  And if that mattered to them.

It actually seemed as though they feared encouraging me.  Maybe they thought if they encouraged me, I might decide I was doing a good job, Lord forbid.  Or, might even decide to remain at the church.  It was no secret that several wanted me gone.

If you had asked them why they wanted me gone, they would have been hard-pressed to answer.  You might have heard something like: “He’s not a good fit for our church” (meaning them personally) or “We don’t like his style.”

One deacon’s wife actually said she and her husband did not like my style.  I replied, “You might as well say you don’t like the way I part my hair.  This is who I am.” Then I told her something very serious. “Imagine standing before the Lord and telling Him you opposed the pastor He sent because you did not like his style. That is scary.”

She sat there staring at me.

Before long, they joined the church down the street.  Within another year, they had relocated to a third church.

In my heart of hearts, I believe that couple is lost.  That even though they have lots of religious experience, they have never really met the Lord Jesus Christ.  I base that on something our Lord said in John 15:21. (Look it up, please.)

Even the memory of that time is painful.  Some who were members of that church are Facebook friends and remember my ministry with appreciation, they say. I wonder where they were when the enemy was attacking.

You have to wonder….

Do people know how seriously the Heavenly Father takes this matter? And does that matter to them? It should. 

Scripture is saturated with instances of carnal people discouraging the faithful.  Here are a few instances…

–Why are you discouraging the sons of Israel from crossing over into the land which the Lord has given them? (Numbers 32:7)

–Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from building…”(Ezra 4:4).  The “am-ha-aritz”  (Hebrew for “people of the land’) were the heathen leftovers from the days of the Chaldeans.  They were constant pains in the side of the Lord’s people.  To this day, it’s the work of the devil to discourage the faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus.

–Check out Deuteronomy 1:28.  Moses is referring to the incident recorded in Numbers 13-14.  He tells the Lord’s people, After the spies brought their report on Canaan, ‘you were not willing to go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God.  You grumbled in your tents and said, ‘Because the Lord hates us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us.  Where can we go up?  Our brethren have made our hearts melt…

Discouragement makes the heart melt. And a “melted heart” disables the warrior and hands the victory to the enemy.

History provides a number of stories of discouragers being treated as the traitors they were and executed for treason. Why don’t God’s people understand this?

Encouragement is such a simple thing, but with great powers.

Satan was showing a visitor around his arsenal, bragging on this weapon and that tool.  The big one over there in the corner is his secret weapon, he said, because of its incredible power.  “It’s the power of discouragement.  I’ve brought down many a great warrior of the faith with that thing.  In the hands of the disgruntled and careless, it can destroy a great church, end a pastor’s ministry, and disrupt a lot of things God has going.”

Here are some ways we discourage a pastor.  You’ll think of more….

–By withholding praise when he does something truly praiseworthy.

–By blaming others for withholding praise.  It’s your job, church member!  Take the initiative.

–By keeping the wages low and opposing raises for faithful workers.

–By criticizing the minister’s wife, condemning his children, undermining his staff, and resisting his ideas.

–By letting bullies and church bosses run rough-shod over the pastor without anyone holding them accountable.  The pastor cannot fight them alone.  In most cases, the best warrior in the place is an elderly little saint in tennis shoes.  She is universally loved and respected and no bully would dare cross her. She is able to stand in the business meeting and ask the hard questions in the sweetest way.  Example: “Pastor, how was the decision made to fire that person?”  “Pastor, who decided that we would not do that mission trip this year?” “May I ask the deacons how the decision was made to terminate the pastor?”  (And if they respond that “personnel matters are best not dealt with in public,” do not let them get off that easily.  The best response is something like: “So, who are you responsible to, if not to the whole congregation?”

Of course, the best time to hold leaders accountable is before they run the pastor off and not afterwards.

The best way to discourage a hardworking, dedicated servant of God is to abandon him to the wolves.  (See Acts 20:29ff).

And the best way to encourage a servant of God?

Love the Lord and love His people.  Our Lord Jesus called this the first and second greatest commands.

Do your job.  Be faithful.  Speak up.  Be a force for good and righteousness in the congregation.  Sing at the top of your lungs.  Give as though you really believed that God would honor the gift and the giver.  Tell everyone you meet how much you love your pastor and appreciate his sermons.  Brag on those who give a good faith effort in anything they do for the Lord, everything from cutting the grass to cleaning the toilets to cooking breakfast for the men’s meeting to singing in the choir.

Tell people you love them.  Tell them they inspire you.  Brag on them.

Pray for those who serve well and pay attention to those who are unfaithful and constantly on the prowl for ways to stir up trouble.  Pray real prayers, intercessions of faith and fervency, calling on God to take special note of us, to empower our efforts, to protect us from the enemy, and lead us to be bold in our witness and aggressive in our efforts.

Quietly identify the troublemakers and surround them with a team of the positive and faithful, the strong and mature, who will counter their efforts to destroy with truth. Quarantine them with love.

Pull together likeminded people who are determined that this church is going to survive, that it is going to keep this pastor and bless his ministry, and that Satan is not going to get any victories on this plot of ground.

Depending on how deep-rooted is the discouragement factor in your church, you may have to take the long view on this.  Work and pray to get positive-minded deacons and leaders in place, people characterized by love and Christlikeness.

Do this and I make you a promise.  God will think of you every time He hears someone reciting Hebrews 6:10.

“God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love that you have shown toward His name in having ministered to the saints, and in still ministering.”

When we bless the church, we bless Jesus.

The work is hard and our days are few, so let us be faithful.

2 thoughts on “The greatest failure is the failure to encourage

  1. Dear Pastor Mckeever,
    Our church is currently going through this type of harassment from our deacons. In October 2023 the church called our current pastor with a unanimous vote to come and lead us as God called him to do. Now they are asking for his resignation or all the deacons are leaving the church. They believe our church can’t survive without them. I believe we would thrive greatly without them! These are men that have been deacons for 50 plus years. They say we don’t need any new members, we have enough. Our attendance is down to less than 30 members. They don’t want new children in our church because they may bring evil ideas for our children to learn. They have refused to meet with the pastor to talk reconciliation. They think 19 members will leave if the pastor stays. Wealthy members are worth more than the ones that will be left they say. They have rediculous ideas of cutting the Sunday morning worship to 11:45 so they can get their families to restaurants for lunch before 12:00 and beat the Methodists there. We are Baptist. I am so heartbroken over this power struggle. The deacons have not given him a fair shake since he began. They have bashed our new pastor on every front since he was voted in. They are calling for a meeting this Sunday during our worship service to vote him out since he will not resign. God called him for a purpose which he had not had time to complete. There have been petty accusations over things that have been easily explained. But they have black-balled him on every count. The church is divided. We don’t want to have to vote to keep him or kick him out. How in the world can this thing be resolved? It’s only 2 days to the vote!

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