Wednesday, April 25, 2007


In August of this year I will complete my fifteenth year of full-time preaching. I have served in three different congregations and each has been a blessing. During these fifteen years church members have written me many notes of encouragement (usually!) and affirmation. I have kept these stuffed in a cardboard box “to be organized later.” Recently I undertook to re-read all the notes and file them according to the year received. The whole experience of re-reading the notes has brought back many wonderful memories. And some sad ones.

There is the note from the sixteen-year-old girl who died a few months after I moved in a fiery car crash along with three friends. There are the notes from couples who have since divorced. There is the note from the family of a man who committed suicide whose funeral I preached, and the one from the mother of a twelve-year old boy who died tragically whose funeral I also preached. It is such an honor to be called alongside people in their most difficult times to bear witness to the presence of Christ, and these notes help remind me of the substance of my calling.

Some of the notes are delightful. Like the one from the West Houston mother who was having lunch with her son at his elementary school and was joined by one of his friends. The friend asked her son “What kind of things can your preacher do? My preacher can do magic tricks and juggle fire.” Her son replied with great earnestness, “Oh no. Our preacher doesn’t do any of that. He’s just funny. He pretty much just tells jokes.

As I was reading and filing some of the notes this week, I received an email out of the blue from a man I had known in a previous church who said “his heart has ached at every remembrance” of the tension we experienced in our relationship in the last year I was there. We had not seen or spoken to one another in thirteen years. I had had no idea he was so troubled by this, but it gave me great joy to write him back, offer my own apology for my role in our disagreements, inquire of his well-being, and know that as brothers in Christ we are reconciled because he made the effort to write a note.

Friends, life goes by fast. My overall impression of receiving and re-reading these notes is to marvel at how powerful and lasting a simple word of goodwill, encouragement, and affirmation can be to people. A verbal word is wonderful, a written word even better. I am resolved to write more personal notes of encouragement, thanks and affirmation.

Here’s part of another note I received. The man writes, “I’ve been working on something lately that doesn’t make me a popular guy. So this morning I got to thinking about how no one really appreciates it, or understands the effort… and so on. When I got done feeling sorry for myself I began to think about things or people I take for granted.” So he wrote me a note of appreciation. Here is what’s great: I am certain that not only was I encouraged but that he felt better after writing it. Encouragement is a gift that goes both ways.

How many people do you think feel unappreciated and under-thanked? Most. It is a powerful ministry in Christ to be an encourager of others. It is a ministry that always bears fruit. No magic skills required.


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