I am the driven first-born child of two driven first-born children which has taught me to be self-motivated, eager to learn, a natural leader, and this all quickly turns into pride in my heart if I am not cautious. Although God has given me seasons and spaces where He has asked me to lead, most recently He has reminded me of a gift I possess but am not so quick to use—the gift of exhortation.
For some reason, I often tend to place the gift of church leadership and/or Bible teaching over encouraging the body of the church because it seems so much more important. Teaching and leading are both pivotal to church growth and personal spiritual growth, but exhortation is as well. Here is why:
Exhortation is often called the gift of encouragement and comes from the Greek Parakaleo which means to exhort, beseech, encourage, comfort, and strengthen. In the Spiritual Gifts Test summary of exhortation, it says “The primary means of exhortation is to remind the hearer of the powerful and amazing work of God in Christ, particularly in regard to the saving work of Jesus in the atonement.”
This word, Parakaleo, was used in several verses that stir up my heart to see the importance of even the more personal, one on one, behind the scenes ministry of encouragement/exhortation:
Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thes 5:11
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, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Heb 10:24-25
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Eph 4:1-3
Encouraging each other can be so much more than telling someone they look nice on a Sunday morning. Instead, it asks that we humbly turn away from ourselves and instead look for good and praiseworthy character within our people and point it out. We can use actions to encourage when words are not enough. We must keep reminding those around us of the gospel in any and every situation—happy or hopeless—it applies to all things and is always enough. And the act of exhortation goes even further than encouragement but can even be linked to showing empathy for others and calling upon them so that we may weep or rejoice with them in their circumstances.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Gal 6:2
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.1 Pet 4:8-10
Encouraging the other members of the body that is in Christ gives them freedom and strength to serve the body as well as Christ in the ways they were gifted to. Ephesians 4:16 says “…when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” No gift is more important than the others—the body of Christ needs them all to grow and build itself up. No gift is too small, too mundane, or too insignificant for God use for growth.
In closing, while some in God’s grace have been given this encouragement gift, all have the ability to encourage and build up each other for the sake of the Kingdom. Speak life into the dark, hopeless places of someone’s heart today with the gospel. Then go forth and use your gifts—whatever they may be—to build up the body and make much of Christ. Lead, teach, discern, give, serve, exhort with your whole heart today and every day for His glory.
Hannah is a creative at heart who lives in Lynchburg, VA with her husband. She is an avid reader, graphic maker, coffee drinker, and adventure seeker. She loves people and the richness they bring to her life. If you would like to follow along with her, find her on instagram as @hannahbweaves or on Facebook as Hannah Boeckman Weaver.