By Rob Hurtgen
If you’re in ministry long enough—and by long enough, I mean more than a week—you’ll find yourself discouraged. It’s easy to get discouraged when we confront sin or counsel the hurting only to see them repeat the same decisions that caused hurt in the first place.
In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul found himself discouraged and downcast when he wrote, “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the arrival of Titus” (2 Corinthians 7:6). From these words, I’d like to encourage you to build a ministry of encouragement.
Now before you scroll past this article to focus on something that seems to have greater weight and usefulness for the church, I’d like to confess my hesitancies of writing about developing a ministry of encouragement.
When I first considered a ministry of encouragement, the imagery of a cheesy smile, an overpriced suit, and fortune cookie catchphrases came to mind.
But then I read Paul.
Paul, the great persecutor of Christians whom God graciously and majestically transformed into a champion for the church. In 2 Corinthians 7:6, we find Paul not just downcast but in a condition of low degree. This describes the state many of us pastors find ourselves in but aren’t willing to admit—a state of being greatly discouraged.
Christians get discouraged. Pastors get depressed. For many people, the stress of the November and December holiday season only increases our discouragement.
Some pastors turn their energy level up the holiday season until finally—after they’ve attended every event and the last Christmas service is over—they experience a post-Christmas crash. While they know Jesus is the reason for the season, all they really want is a long winter’s nap.
For these reasons, pastors need to both receive and build a ministry of encouragement.
A ministry of encouragement reflects God’s heart.
Paul describes an aspect of God’s nature by saying the Lord is a comforter of the downcast. God comes alongside the brokenhearted. We, therefore, reflect the heart of God when we make an intentional effort to come alongside those who are downcast, discouraged, and depressed.
Notice also from 2 Corinthians 7:6 how Paul was encouraged. God comforted Paul through the arrival of Titus. The emphasis here is how Titus was God’s instrument of encouragement.
When people are trying to comfort someone who’s experienced calamity, they’ll often ask themselves, “What do I say?” Or they’ll admit, “I don’t know what to say.”
You don’t have to say anything. Sometimes, the greatest encouragement you can offer is to simply be present to let someone know they’re not alone.
Titus was a great encouragement to Paul.
Titus was God’s instrument of encouragement. To be an encourager means one is willing to step into a difficult situation and not be the expert—to not be the person with all the solutions or answers. You can be God’s instrument to comfort the downcast by simply showing up and being there with them.
We live in a time when so many people want to be right. That is, they want to have all the right answers, be able to go to all the right resources, know and follow all the right people, and have all the right people follow them.
But the reality is we live in a fallen world with fallen people who do fallen things.
One of the simplest and gospel-rich initiatives we can take is to show up where people are downcast and—instead of joining in with their cynicism—be counter-cultural and reflect the heart of God by being encouraging.
As you approach the holiday season and transition into the following year, I encourage you to be an encouraging pastor.
ROB HURTGEN (@robhurtgen) is husband to Shawn, father of five, pastor of First Baptist Church Chillicothe, Missouri, and doctoral student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also blogs at RobHurtgen.wordpress.com.