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Encouragement is a powerful tool that comes in many forms. Some of us have a shoebox full of cards sent during an exceptionally challenging season. Others may hold onto text messages or voicemails containing words that lifted our spirits in a time of need. Our most precious memories may be of a friend or family member offering kind words of comfort or praise.

All people need encouragement, but there is a special urgency and necessity to encourage believers on mission. Those who pour out their lives for the sake of the gospel must be simultaneously poured into by fellow Christians.

Biblical Encouragement is Essential

The Bible is very clear about the task of encouraging one another; it’s not just a suggestion, it is essential to the spiritual health of every believer. Hebrews 3:13 tells us,

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

When we encourage believers on mission, it is a weapon against the allure of sin. And it’s not a one-and-done pursuit. Believers are called to encourage one another daily and with intentionality. This is not the kind of worldly encouragement that provides a proverbial thumbs-up and a posterboard slogan. True encouragement of believers in ministry should be rooted in spiritual truth, a reminder of the Holy Spirit’s ability to work in and through a person, regardless of their own strengths or capabilities. It is a continual building-up of faith, reminding one another that even when we feel weary, Christ’s power within us remains strong. Just as Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ hands when he could no longer hold them up on his own (Exodus 17:12), so are we called to the essential encouragement of other believers on mission.

Biblical Encouragement is Personal

Biblical encouragement flourishes through proximity. While there are certainly times when the Holy Spirit will lead you to a Scripture or encouraging word to share with a missionary or ministry worker who is an acquaintance, the best encouragements flow from those closest to us. You can’t effectively encourage those you don’t know. The body of Christ is made up of a diverse group of individuals, each with different giftings and encouragement needs. This means we must seek to truly know the receiving sources of our encouragement, for in doing so we encourage them well. Hebrews 10:24-25 paints a picture of what this can practically look like:

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

We must spend time actively considering how to best encourage other believers, and we must spend time in community and fellowship with them in order to know how to do so. An example the apostle Paul sets for us throughout the New Testament—such as in Philippians 1:9-11—is letting the receivers of our encouragement know specifically what we are praying for them. So as you spend time with believers on mission, getting to know their hurts and hang-ups, their joys and their areas of need, seek to share with them the specific Scriptures and prayers you’ve prayed over them.

Biblical Encouragement is More Than Just Words

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” -1 John 3:18

The Bible is clear that encouragement should flow not just from our words; it should be an outpouring of our actions as well. So get creative in how you show love to believers on mission! Send a care package full of local items to bless a missionary who is feeling homesick. Read a missionary’s newsletter and look for tangible ways you can meet a need in their ministry. Visit with a local believer on mission and give them permission to share the hard things in ministry, not just the positive. Listen with intent, ask questions, and relate. Look for ways you can serve without being asked–bring a meal, contribute to a financial need, or offer your gifts and talents.

May we embody the charge the apostle Peter gives in 1 Peter 4:8-10 as we encourage one another toward faithfulness:

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”