Tag Archives: encouragement

Lessons on Encouragement from 1-2 Corinthians — Jon Mitchell, Editor (Editorial: January/February, 2017)

One of the most important charges given to preachers and Christians in general is found in 2 Timothy 4:2:  “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”  There is obviously an ever-present need to preach nothing more than the truth of God’s Word, and most preachers recognize the great need to always be ready to preach that Word both when it is well received and even when it is not.  Yet, a struggle exists within many preachers and teachers of the Bible to accurate apply the last part of 2 Timothy 4:2 to their heralding of God’s Word to others.  Many known false teachers both within the brotherhood and in the denominational world infamously shy away from any sort of preaching that would scripturally reprove or rebuke in any fashion.  Consequently, it is easy for sound Christians and gospel preachers and teachers to give more reproofs and rebukes than exhortation and encouragement in their sermons, classes, articles, blog posts, social media comments, and one-on-one conversations, all in an effort to “pick up the slack” and give the world the scriptural correction they need and won’t receive anywhere else.  It is also easy to do this without the longsuffering and patience God inspired Paul to command Timothy to have.

We must remember that there is just as much value and need for exhortation and encouragement as there is for reproof and rebuke (Ga. 6:2; 1 Th. 5:11, 14; 1 Ti. 5:1; He. 3:12-13; 10:24-25).  Spiritually building up and edifying fellow Christians to help them become closer to God and overcome sin in their life requires more than telling them what they need to work on.  It equally requires open acknowledgment and appreciation of what we are doing right, and encouragement to keep it up.  For every (hopefully scriptural and constructive) critical sermon, lesson, article or comment made, there needs to be another which openly acknowledges the good done by Christians and thanks them for it.  Yes, the sermons, articles, and comments which bring out what we need to do better are more times than not correct and they are sure to get numerous “likes” and comments like “Amen!” and “Preach it, brother!”  However, after a while of being regularly saturated with lessons and articles which repeatedly say, “We have this problem,” “We’re not doing what we need to do in this area,” and “We could do better here,” a lot of us will get discouraged and begin to wonder if we can do anything right in the sight of God (or the Christian or church leader who regularly shows us our errors.)  There is a place for reproof and rebuke, but there’s also a place for exhortation.  As Jesus said, “These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Mt. 23:23).

This is why I believe 1-2 Corinthians are books which every Christian needs to read at least once a quarter.  We typically think of Paul as a no-nonsense, “let ’em have it with both barrels” kind of preacher, especially in his letters to the Corinthian church.  This perhaps is due to our human tendency to give more focus on the negative than the positive, which is a big reason why we might be unbalanced with the emphasis on “reproving and rebuking” rather than “exhortation, encouragement, and patience.”

In reality, it is interesting to see how God inspired Paul to both encourage and rebuke the church at Corinth in a balanced way.  He would acknowledge and show appreciation for the good the Corinthians were doing and continually state and affirm the great love he and God have for them and the love they have for each other…all while also repeatedly bringing up their shortcomings in very blunt and sometimes sarcastic ways while admonishing them to repent.

Consider the following examples from both of Paul’s inspired letters to Corinth, a church which had so many faults that it makes some of our worst days in our own congregations look like a picnic in comparison!

Beginning in 1 Corinthians, notice how before rebuking them for division (1:10-13) Paul called them God’s church, sanctified, saints, and wished upon them grace and peace (1:2-3).  Notice how he told them he thanked God for them, openly acknowledged their strong points, and told them they were in fellowship with God (1:4-9).  Brethren, how often do we openly wish God’s grace and peace upon others, even while we “let them have it”?  How often do we openly tell our fellow Christians, especially those who have easily perceived faults, that we thank God for them and bring up the good things about them?

Let’s keep reading.  After calling them spiritual infants due to their worldliness (3:1-4), Paul then called them God’s field and building (3:9), God’s holy temple (3:17), and told them all things were theirs and they were Christ’s (3:21).

After sarcastically mocking their “high and mighty” attitude (4:3-8), he stressed that his goal was not to shame them (4:14) and told them he considered them to be like his children (4:15).  Do we do this when we correct others?

After rebuking them for tolerating fornication amongst them and going to court against each other over trivial matters (5:1-6:8), he reminded them of how they had overcome many grievous sins and were washed, sanctified, and justified (6:9-11).  What a great example of balance!  How needed are the reminders that all is not lost, that those whom we correct have still done some good and are still in Christ!

Right before rebuking them for their abuse of the Lord’s Supper (11:17-34), he commends them for their obedience to apostolic traditions (11:2).  This reminds me of how I’ve yet to find any Christian in need of correction who was not obeying any of God’s commandments.

While rebuking them for their misplaced priorities concerning spiritual gifts (12-14), he reminds them of how they are the body of Christ and each one of them is needed (12:12-27).  It’s very easy for some Christians, especially some who have unrepentant sin in their lives and need rebuking, to think they have nothing to offer to the kingdom.  There was a time in my life that I felt that way when sin reigned in my life.  Nothing could be further from the truth, and when Christians realize this it can be great motivation for them to repent of their sins.

After rebuking them for their error concerning the resurrection (15:1-49), he builds them up by painting them a glorious picture of that wonderful Judgment Day and then reminds them of how their work is not in vain (15:50-58).  All of us need reminding of this.

He then ends his first letter to them by sending them “hearty greetings” from brethren elsewhere (16:19-20) before wishing God’s grace upon them and expressing his love for them once more (16:23-24).  What a stark contrast from some discussions I’ve seen in which scriptural correction was given!

2 Corinthians is no different.  He starts the letter by openly wishing upon them grace and peace from God and Christ (1:2).  He then gives them a very uplifting message about comfort (1:3-5), before informing them that they are the reason he and his fellow apostles suffer (1:6) and his hope in them is unshaken (1:7), all before requesting their prayers (1:11).  What a stark contrast from sermons, articles, and comments made by myself and others in the past which simply say to Christians, “Shape up!” without also comforting them and telling them, “I care so much about you, and here’s what I’m willing to do to show it.  I hope in you.  I believe in you, so much that I’m asking you to pray for me.”

Paul then speaks bluntly to them about their need to forgive the penitent among them (1:23-2:11).  Yet, even while doing so he goes out of his way to tell them that he didn’t think he was better than them (1:24a), acknowledge that they stand firm in their faith (1:24b), and inform them of how it tore him up to have to rebuke them (2:4a), all before making sure they knew that he didn’t want to hurt them because he loved them very much (2:4b).  How much we can learn from this!   Rebuking people requires more than telling them to repent while specifying their errors.  It also requires telling them that you love them while acknowledging what they are doing right.

Even while defending himself and his companions from the accusation of being “peddlers of God’s Word” (2:12-3:1), he tells the Corinthians that their walk with Christ is such that he could use them as a “letter of recommendation” (3:2-3).  What a great example for us, friends!

Instead of complaining about it, Paul then speaks positively about the terrible ordeals he and his companions went through (4:8-11) before informing the Corinthians of how he willingly went through these trials for their sake (4:12-15).  Brethren, let’s be honest.  We tend to complain to each other about the problems brought upon us in this life, problems quite small when compared to Paul’s (see 11:23-27).  Why not speak of how God upholds us even in the midst of our sufferings as Paul did, before informing our brethren that we would go through it all over again if it would help just one soul in that congregation get closer to God?

Notice how Paul says to the church, “We IMPLORE you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God”  (5:20b) and “we APPEAL to you not to receive the grace of God in vain” (6:1).  Let’s try IMPLORING brethren to repent and APPEALING to them rather than beating them up over the head about it.  Pleading rather than lecturing might produce better results.

Before admonishing them to be different from unbelievers rather than unequally yoking themselves to them (6:14-7:1), notice how Paul went out of his way to tell these Christians that his heart was wide open for them while encouraging them to widen their hearts also (6:11-13).  Notice also that while he ends his admonishment for them to cleanse themselves, he calls them “beloved” (7:1) and urges them again, “Make room in your hearts for us” (7:2a).  Our brethren need to know how much we care for them and love them while we rebuke them.

Paul then acknowledged that his previous letter brought them grief which led them to repent (7:8-10) before going out of his way to let them know that they were doing a great job repenting (7:11) and that their repentance and subsequent encouraging of Titus comforted Paul (7:13).  Notice how Paul told them that he had been boasting about them, and that their actions proved his boasts to be well-founded (7:14).  See how he told them that Titus’ affection for them was growing and that Titus remembered how obedient they were (7:15).  Paul then told them about his joy over them and that he had “perfect confidence” in them (7:16).  This is Corinth, remember…and yet look how Paul is speaking positively of them here.  The church in America overall has a lot of problems, but she has a lot of good in her too.  We must acknowledge that.  It might just help our brethren to become better.

While talking up the Macedonians, Paul told Corinth (of all people!) that they “excel in everything” while encouraging them to excel in their giving also (8:7).  He then acknowledged that they had already excelled in their benevolence before urging them to keep it up (8:10-11) and thus prove that Paul’s boasts about them were right (8:24).  He talks of their readiness to be benevolent and again informed them of his boasts about them to others, who in turn were inspired by them (9:2), all before exhorting them to give more and in the right way (9:3-11).  He then told them of how others were glorifying God because of their generosity (9:12-15).  What a great example for us in how to stir up brethren to get more involved in church work!

Take note of how Paul, even while defending himself against his detractors at Corinth, again “entreated” and “begged” them to repent (10:1-2).  Notice also how even in the midst of his sarcastic rebuke of them (10-12), he talks of his hope that their faith would increase (10:15), his fear that Satan would lead them astray (11:3), his love for them (11:11), and his anxiety for them and all other churches (11:28).  This is before he tells them that he would “most gladly spend and be spent for your souls” (12:15a), that it was “all for your upbuilding, beloved” (12:19b), that he was praying for them (13:7, 9), and that they were more important than him (13:9).  He then ended his letter to them in a very positive note (13:11-14).

What a great example of balance that shows us how to rebuke with love and encourage even while admonishing!  We can definitely learn from this, friends.  Proclaiming God’s truth is a blessing, and those of us who share it with others have a high privilege.  Let’s always “speak the truth in love” (Ep. 4:15)!            — Jon


Ways To Encourage Each Other – Adam Carlson

Webster defines encouragement in part as, The act of giving courage, or confidence of success; incitement to action or to practice; incentive.” Encouragement is something that everyone needs, especially within the body of Christ. The focus of this article will be to look at some ways in which this can be accomplished along with examples. This is a needed topic and one which will hopefully be beneficial to each reader.

Encourage by being there for one another.  Israel, the descendents of Jacob, fought against the Amalekites, the descendants of Esau (Ex. 17:8; cf. Ge. 36:8-16). During the battle, Moses was encouraged by Aaron and Hur to uphold his arms because he couldn’t do it alone (v. 12). It’s the same way today. One can’t do everything alone. That’s why we need to make a conscious effort to be there for one another in times of need. The words of Solomon come to mind. Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend, and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away” (Pr. 27:10, ESV). When Christians realize the blessing of encouraging and being encouraged by one another, this is something that will become much easier to practice.

Please be there to fulfill the needs of brethren. I have been on the receiving end of encouragement during times of great need. The brethren stepped up and encouraged me and from their comfort I can hopefully pass on similar encouragement to others who need it.

Encourage by speech.  Hezekiah is a good example of one who could encourage. When he restored the system of worship as given to Moses, the following words are recorded: “And Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of the LORD. So they ate the food of the festival for seven days, sacrificing peace offerings and giving thanks to the LORD, the God of their fathers” (2 Ch. 30:22).

In another instance during his reign Judah was invaded by Assyria (2 Ch. 32:1). During this time of crisis, Hezekiah spoke to the commanders of the army: “And he set combat commanders over the people and gathered them together to him in the square at the gate of the city and spoke encouragingly to them, saying, ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles. And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah king of Judah’” (2 Ch. 32:6-8).

Brethren can do a great work by simply speaking encouraging words. Christians are instructed to speak in a truthful and gracious manner (Ep. 4:25, 29; Co. 4:6). Words are indeed a powerful thing and great caution must be practiced before speaking (Ja. 1:19). The example of Hezekiah should be followed in that our words should encourage those who need it and inspire confidence in those who listen.

Encourage by helping new converts.  I would be amiss if I didn’t mention Barnabas, who is introduced in Acts 4:36. Notice how he was known as “the son of encouragement” because of his ability to encourage the brethren. Also consider the way he assisted Paul after his conversion. The brethren were experiencing a great deal of trepidation because of his previous conduct (Ac 9:26). Notice what Luke says next: “But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus” (Ac. 9:27, emphasis mine). It must be realized that one who is new to the faith is need of encouragement often times due to their background. Some may face opposition from their families, others may face other struggles. They need to know they have people who love them and will do all they can to encourage them in their new walk.

Let us examine another episode in the life of Barnabas. Luke writes, “When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord” (Ac. 11:23-24, emphasis mine). The church needs people of the character of Barnabas who will practice encouragement on a regular basis. Physically speaking, children – especially infants – are assisted in their growth and development. It’s no wonder Paul talks of this in a spiritual sense (1 Co. 3:1). He uses this same analogy in describing their approach to new converts in Thessalonica (1 Th. 2:7). The writer of Hebrews speaks of his readers’ child-like state in spiritual growth (He. 5:12-13). Peter also uses similar language to describe this growth process (1 Pe. 2:2). There are none who would neglect to make sure infants are physically growing. It shouldn’t be any different with a new brother or sister in their spiritual growth. This is accomplished by continual teaching and encouragement as they grow.

Encourage by being present. Encouragement can be as simple as being physically present and assisting the brethren with a task. The descendants of Reuben and Gad wanted to stay on the east side of the Jordan River rather than accompany Israel to fight for the rest of the Promised Land, but Moses told them, “Why will you discourage the heart of the people of Israel from going over into the land that the LORD has given them?” (Num. 32:7). We later read that they did what they were supposed to do and went into battle, thus encouraging rather than discouraging (v. 18).

People can be encouraged by our presence. It was for this reason that Paul sent Tychicus to Ephesus and Colossae (Ep. 6:21-22; Co. 4:7-9). Remember the words of David: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’” (Ps. 122:1). By being present when the church gathers Christians encourage and are encouraged by each other.

These are a few practical ways and examples of how individual Christians can encourage each other. We all need encouragement, whether we wish to acknowledge it or not. Encouraging someone doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. It can be as simple as sending a note to someone who’s struggling with something in their life, whether it be the death of a loved one, finances, job security, or whatever other problem of life which comes their way. Encourage those who are laboring in a worthy manner to continue on in that good work.

It would be good to remember that there may be a time when you may be the one in need of encouragement. Therefore, help those who need it so you can first practice it in your own life. Remember the words of Paul when he spoke to the elders of Ephesus: “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Ac. 20:35, emphasis mine).













Christians, We Need Each Other!! — Jon Mitchell, Editor (Editorial: May/June, 2015)

The times in which we live are filled with discouragement. As I write this, the United States Supreme Court is hearing arguments concerning whether homosexual marriage should be nationally legalized, while preachers in the city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, are being told by officials that they are breaking a city ordinance when they refuse to marry homosexuals. Baltimore is being torn apart by the latest of a series of riots which have been taking place across the United States.

You might have been going about your day when suddenly a policeman knocked on your door or you received a call from the local hospital informing you that your loved one has died after being in a car accident, or after suddenly suffering a heart attack or stroke. Perhaps you have sat by their sickbed for long hours months on end watching them deteriorate from cancer or some other life-threatening disease, have held their hand as they slipped from this life, and now you are facing a future without them. Maybe you showed up for work at the job you so desperately need to put food on your family’s plate and a roof over their head, only to suddenly be handed the dreaded pink slip while you’re informed that the bad economy is forcing the company to make some changes and they have to let you go. Perhaps your spouse of many years has told you out of the blue that they no longer love you and want a divorce, or your child has grown and started their own life only to then fall away from the Lord.

Perhaps you are a preacher who has just been unexpectedly told that your services are no longer required in the congregation whom you’ve served and for whom you’ve sacrificed much, or who has spent many hours pouring your heart and soul into a lesson only to watch some sleep through it. You might be an shepherd who has just left the home of a wayward member, heartbroken that they have rejected your pleas to return to the fold. Perhaps you’re an elder or preacher who is worn down by the continuous complaining by those “well-intentioned dragons” who continually nit-pick every decision you make and find fault every day with everyone but themselves. You might be a deacon who finds it very hard to get some or all of the members excited and involved in various service projects. Maybe you’re a member of a local congregation who has just gone through a split, or a Christian who is heartbroken over the doctrinally liberal stances many are taking and the evangelistic apathy which exists among more and more in the church.

Faced with so many hurdles and obstacles, how can we stay strong and loyal to the Lord? How can we focus only on what is good and pure (Phil. 4:8)? The apostle Paul was “afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9). We try to be like him and “not lose heart;” we try to let “our inner self (be) renewed day by day;” we want so desperately to “look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” and “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 4:8-9, 16, 18; 5:7). How did he do it? How can I do it?

Paul was not alone. Yes, he had the Lord with him always, a true Companion who can’t be surpassed. However, he also had his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ with him. Timothy, Barnabas, Luke, Silas, Titus, Philemon, the churches at Thessalonica and Philippi…all of these and more helped, refreshed and encouraged him throughout the dark times in his life. Fellow Christian, you are not alone either. You have the Lord Jesus, and you have his family, your family, his church.

Church, in order to be the beacon of light to both Christians and the lost who are groping through this dark world of discouragement, we must be what God would have us to be. Each of us must let our light shine (Mt. 5:16). We all must treat each other like family (1 Tim. 5:1-2). We must avoid complaining, grumbling, gossip, and backbiting, and strive not to produce it ourselves (Phil. 2:14; Gal. 5:15). Rather, we must “be at peace…encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient…(and) seek to do good to one another and to everyone” (1 Th. 5:13b-15). We must bring the saving message of the gospel to everyone and live it in our own lives and in our dealings with each other (Mk. 16:15; 1 Pt. 2:12). Our assemblies must always be gatherings of edification and encouragement as well as worship in spirit and truth (Heb. 10:24-25; Jn. 4:24).

That’s how we “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2) and bring others and ourselves out of the darkness of despair and into the light of hope. When peace, unity, true love, and encouragement exist in the local church, the lost soul looking for the hope and salvation found only in Jesus will be drawn to you. The new convert will not lose his zeal, and you and your fellow Christians will have your batteries recharged, ready once again to live for Christ in this dark world.

Look around you next Sunday during worship and remember that you need these precious, like-minded brethren…and they need you. — Jon


Out On The Fringes – Roy Knight

(Brother Knight submitted the following in two parts.  We have combined them into one article so that readers can follow all his points.)

The room was painted.  The crib was put into place close enough to the window where there would be enough light but not enough to be directly on the new born.  The rocker was placed in the corner with a small stand to the right that would hold the mother’s drink and any other needed supplies during the long nights.  The changing table was decked out with enough diapers to last the first six months.  No detail had been overlooked.  The “nest” had been prepared to perfection.  Excitement could be felt throughout the house during the final week.  Then came the big day!  The baby, the pictures, the visits, what a wonderful experience!  After three days in the hospital, proud dad, glowing mom and precious baby come home.

After a week and a half of recovery, she returns to church, sits down on her pew and gets ready for worship.  People look at her puzzled and one finally asks, “Where is the baby?”  “Oh, I put him in the room we prepared for him a week and a half ago, closed the door and we haven’t heard from him since.”

Understandably, this story makes no sense.  Yet, this may be what we do in the church sometimes with our new converts.  We prepare programs, arrange door knocking campaigns and send out flyers.  We spend lots of money and time spreading the word and then one day there is one who says, “I too want to be a Christian.  What hinders me from being baptized?”  We are all excited.  The preacher rushed to put on his waders.  The congregation begins to sing “Oh, Happy Day.”  The confession is made and before long the baptism is finished.  There are smiles and some tears.  There are hugs and handshakes.  There are words of encouragement and promised support.  Then we all get in our cars and go home.

The next service there is an announcement or PowerPoint slide that says that Mr. or Mrs. Blank has been added to the body of Christ and some words of how glad we are to have them.  Then after six months, folks begin to look around and ask one another, “I wonder where they are?”  “You know I haven’t seen them for several months.”  “If they don’t come back soon we’ll have to withdraw fellowship from them.”

This doesn’t make any more sense than the first story, but in many ways they are the same.  We need to realize that whether physical or spiritual babies, we need to take care of them.  Too often we allow them to sit out on the fringes, that mysterious space that exists between being a non-member and a member in full standing.  There they feel like a bug under a glass, stared at to see what they will do.  Some lend a few kind but uncommitted words while others speculate how long it will be before they fall away.  How sad!

In order to keep a new convert the whole congregation must do its utmost to reach out to that new babe in Christ, not just the preacher or the one who studied with them but the whole congregation.  Studies have shown that unless the new convert makes three to four good friendships in the first year there is almost a one hundred percent chance they will leave the fold.  Who wants to stay where they are not wanted or loved?  Then we have the audacity to say, “I just knew they were not going to stay long.”  “I had doubts about them from the beginning.”  Yet, did we do anything to help them stay?

If we are going to pull those fringe Christians into the “inner circle,” we must give a little of our precious time to get to know them, to understand who they are, their stories, their aspiration and their needs.  We must befriend them, not look at them and smile as if they were a sack of potatoes.  We need to take them out for lunch and let them know that they are special and of a great value to us and to the Lord.  We need to spend time on their couch and they on ours talking and getting to know one another.  Not just one person but many strong Christians must work together as a safety net trying to keep the new convert from falling back out into the world.

How many of our “Oh, Happy Days” will fall flat because they did not finish the race?  How many of them could have made it through the Pearly Gate had we stuck with them, befriended them, encouraged them and bore their burdens?  I would speculate that there are several new babes sitting on the fringe right now crying for attention in our congregations.  What are we going to do about it?

Roy’s Happy Story

I was never a “fringe member.”

A fringe member is one who sits in the space between being lost and truly being incorporated into the Body of Christ.  O, yes, they have made the good confession; they have been baptized; they have had their sins washed away and there they sit asking themselves, “What next?”  They look at people passing them by, some nodding, and some stopping to make small talk about weather.

They come into the congregation and see things working like a well oiled machine: The preacher getting ready for his class, Bible teachers getting things ready for their classes and children and adults going to their classes.  Everyone seems to have a part to play and a place to be, except for them.  They sit down by themselves and smile at others around them and they smile back but very few words are spoken.

When the class is over, the machine begins to work again and people move with purpose:  Elders to their tasks; the preacher to his; the song leader to his and Christians to their spots to sin and to listen to God’s word.  Yet this person sits, looks around, participates but never feels like he or she is truly a part of the congregation.  Over time they mysteriously vanish, yet the machine keeps running as it always had except for an occasional question, “I wonder what ever happened to Brother or Sister ___________.”

I was never this person and I tell you why.  I had people walking me and some times dragging me every step of the way.  As a student at the College of Charleston, my roommate Ivan Adams invited and invited me to go to worship.  He patiently studied the Bible with me.  He put me in contact with Frank Shepard at the student ministry building.  We studied for months.  Every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night the van was there to pick us up for worship and Bible study at the North Charleston congregation.  There folks (strangers) came up to me, talked with me, gave me hugs (I thought that was strange since I did not know them and they didn’t really know me but I got used to it).  They invited me to stay for fellowship meals and many times I went with them to their homes.  To make a long story short, after a period of months and hard fought spiritual battles I became a Christian.

It did not stop there.  The van kept coming, my roommate kept encouraging me and the congregation kept spoiling me.  I’d go over to Ivan’s house on the weekends.  Other weekends, I’d be invited to Richard and Karen McWilliams’ for lunch.  The young adults would often get together at Frank and Jane’s house.  One time, the whole youth group went up to Palmetto bible Camp for a weekend.  Other times we practiced together for the Bible Bowl.  The list goes on and on.  That eventually led me to Freed-Hardeman University and to the East Tennessee School of Preaching.  Today, I am a full-time preacher and have been at it for 16 years.  During that time I have shared the gospel with many folks and a few of them I have baptized and still see their faces every Sunday morning.

I share this story with you to let you know that we cannot afford to have fringe people walking about in our midst.  We must reach out to them and pull them in.  We must give them every opportunity to see what the family of Christ is all about and to help them find their place in the church where they can feel a part and be a blessing to others.