by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The Reading for the August 9 and 16:
1 Thessalonians 3
I've spent the last week thinking of the idea of encouragement. My brain has also returned, as it often does, to the subject of whom the church should serve.
Many of us might answer that the church should serve future generations. We might see the purpose of the church as bringing up children in the way they should go. Those of us who think this way might see the purpose of church as encouraging not just children, but also their parents.
Some of us might see the church as being formed to serve those who are not members. Maybe it's our community, maybe it's new members we haven't met yet, maybe it's the poor and outcast and oppressed. Maybe all of them.
Lately, I've begun to think about how we can encourage each other--the grown ups, the children, the members with whom we go on retreats, the ones we don't know very well. I've been thinking about encouragement not because we want to recruit new members, not because we want to form children so that they'll stay with the church--no, I'm thinking about ways we can encourage each other because we are all so in need of encouragement.
I return to Paul's letter, and I see it shot through with that need for encouragement and gratitude when it comes. I recognize that emotion.
There are many ways that church members can encourage each other: we can go on retreats together, we can create retreats for each other, we can work on projects together, we can keep up with each other via social media (or old fashioned media like letters and phone calls). We can pray for each other.
Most churches, especially smaller churches, may not always have methods in place for members to do this. One thing I've always admired about the megachurches is their use of small groups to keep members connected.
I predict that one of the great developments of social media like Facebook, texting, and e-mails will be that we stay more connected, in this small group kind of way.
But could we be more intentional? The new media will help some of us feel connected and encouraged. What about the rest of us?
I'd like to spend some time thinking about ways we could encourage each other. It's a hard, lonely world out there--if we're not going to encourage each other, who will?