Pastor Keith: Well, welcome to this episode of Doxology Matters, where we seek to have deep conversations and think deeply about God’s Word as we praise Him. If you’re listening to this episode, this is episode 27. I am not Casey Kasem, but I kind of just sounded like Casey Kasem.
Kevin Jones: You did.
Pastor Keith: And today I have with me two of my wonderful dear friends, pastors Kevin Jones and Bob Bonta. They’re here. And I believe you guys were on a past one together.
Kevin Jones: I don’t think so. I think this is our first one.
Bob Bonta: This is my second one, but it was with another like bald participant. And I think his first name may have been Kevin, but it wasn’t Kevin Hass. It was another gentleman. I think it might have been Seaford perhaps.
Pastor Keith: Oh, Michael Howard?
Bob Bonta: Yeah, actually that’s who it was.
Kevin Jones: I’ve been on one with Michael Howard.
Pastor Keith: Oh, great.
Kevin Jones: All kinds of connections in the podcast. I love it.
Bob Bonta: There you go.
Pastor Keith: And I do appreciate how you all are social distancing on opposite ends of the table.
Kevin Jones: You got it.
Pastor Keith: We are doing that. And just for you listeners at home that can’t see what Pastor Kevin is wearing, he has an Atlanta Braves hat on and a Southern Seminary shirt. I mean, like, could it get any better than that?
Kevin Jones: I wore it just for you, Keith.
Pastor Keith: And he’s got his Bible on his phone, ready to go. I mean, today is a great day.
Kevin Jones: Today is a great day. It’s beautiful outside.
Bob Bonta: No favoritism in this podcast in that I’ve got my Boston Red Sox hat on.
Kevin Jones: Boston’s okay. We’ll take Boston.
Bob Bonta: Well, you know, Atlanta came from Boston, so – originally.
Kevin Jones: That is true.
Pastor Keith: Oh, my goodness.
Kevin Jones: He’s not wrong.
Pastor Keith: Here we go. Well, today’s conversation is encouragement in a world full of criticism. If you’re on social media for more than five minutes, you know that the world is not short on critics and criticism. What does the Bible have to say about that? What should we do as Christians, how should we think about being Christ exalting encouragers? First Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. I’ll kick it to Bob first. Define encouragement for us.
Bob Bonta: Well, you know, I saw that question, Keith, and we all have our different ideas or pictures in our mind of what encouragement is, and so just the basic dictionary definition is to render support, confidence, or hope. And I think of encouragement from a scriptural perspective and I think of Barnabas – his name was “Son of Encouragement” – and how he took Mark under his arm when he and Mark and Paul had kind of a conflict. Not kind of, they had a conflict. He partnered with Mark and chose to go with Mark to encourage Mark and to help him recover from that conflict. But in Acts 4:36, Barnabas, his name actually means son of encouragement.
And I look at that word encouragement, from back in the Greek, is paraklesis that is used and immediately takes my thoughts to the Holy Spirit, where He is the paraclete, the one who comes alongside of us. And one of the definitions of that Greek word is a kind of encouragement. So the Holy Spirit Himself is an encourager. The Holy Spirit Himself is one who builds us up and gives us strength and gives us confidence and gives us hope. So when I think of encouragement, I think of God’s perspective or God’s working in our lives to keep us strong and keep us on track. And as believers, that is our task as God’s instruments, God’s people, to keep each other focused on God, focused on the Lord Jesus Christ so that we’ll not get off on these side-tracked events or side-tracked issues, so that we keep our path straight and not out of focus from the Lord.
Pastor Keith: That is super helpful, Bob. Staying connected to the vine. Kevin, do you have anything that you want to add to that as you think about encouragement?
Kevin Jones: That was such a good answer. I don’t know if I need to add a lot. That was great.
Pastor Keith: It was.
Kevin Jones: Yeah, I love that verse that you mentioned. That’s the one I think of. I think of the phrase, “Build each other up.” That’s kind of my favorite part of that. Thinking about, how can you build someone else up? How can you build someone up? That picture in my mind – because the opposite of that is to tear somebody down. And I just kind of picture that in my mind when I think of encouragement. What ways can I – I think encouragement is partially helping someone when they are feeling discouraged, but can also just be, “Hey, I want to encourage you in who you are and what you’re doing, who you’re called to be.” Those are the kind of things I think of. But yeah, kind of build-up, tear down, just how powerful words can be, I think is what it gives me – words have the power to build somebody up or to tear them down.
Pastor Keith: Why do we kind of fall into a lane sometimes of tearing people down and so easily fall into that trap? What do you think is – ?
Kevin Jones: I have a lot of theories. I don’t know for sure. I think part of it is –
Pastor Keith: Make ourselves feel better.
Kevin Jones: Right, make ourselves feel better. Say, “Well, I have all these things I’m insecure about, so if I tear somebody down that means that somebody else is weak too like me.” I think that can be part of it. Some of it is just it’s easier, I think, for people to see weaknesses than it is to see strengths. I don’t know why that is. I think that may be just part of our fallen state. People just naturally see things to criticize before they see things to encourage somebody about. And I don’t know why that is, aside from just we’re fallen people that have been affected by sin, and we have to look for things to encourage about.
I guess they’re kind of theories more than anything, just kind of in my own life, how I feel. My natural inclination to say, I’m going to – I don’t go online to give a review about a business unless they did something wrong or unless they messed up something, an order or something that I did. So I noticed that about myself. And I say, “Well, maybe I should go on to places that treat me well and say something good about them.” That’s not exactly the same example, but that’s where I notice it especially in my life. I don’t want to – my first inclination is I’m going to complain about something before I’m going to encourage. And I think that’s just because we’re fallen people.
Pastor Keith: Definitely.
Bob Bonta: I think everything’s a competition in this world, whether it’s sports or the music that we do. Some churches try to compete with their worship programs. You know? I think everything’s a competition, and when I perceive – and I’m just thinking just theoretically – when I perceive that someone might be better than me, what Kevin was saying, we have this mindset that we have to tear them down so that I can have that elevated position over that other person, so that I win. I don’t think that’s what God intended for us, because we’re comparing ourselves with others. We need to be looking at Christ and comparing ourselves to Christ. And when we do that, we all fall down. We’re all insufficient. And so how do we get to the point where we’re sufficient? Our sufficiency is in Christ. It has nothing to do with anybody else. And we come alongside each other, rather than fighting each other, but coming alongside each other and encouraging the other to bring them, so that we can all stand in the glory of Christ.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, there’s definitely a root of pride that is in that tearing down of each other, that we speak uncharitably about someone, even not face-to-face. And there you go, that’s another issue of gossip.
Kevin Jones: It is, yeah. When I think of comparison, like we were talking about, I was thinking about Jesus talking to Peter at the end of the gospel of John. Jesus asked Peter to follow him. Peter does that, but then turns around and looks and sees John coming, and says, “Hey, what about him?” And he says, “Hey, you don’t worry about him. You follow me.” I think that’s the key. We can’t compare because it’s like Jesus is like, “Hey, don’t worry about what that other person is doing. You follow me. I called you to follow me.” That’s what we’re all called to.
Bob Bonta: And that’s the same thing with the music program or the ministries in the church, one church to the next, one church is called to do one thing, and another church may not be called to do that same very thing. And so it’s spiritual apples and oranges. You can’t really compare one to the other, because God may not have called you or that church or that group to do item A, where He has called group B to do that.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, that’s right. And kind of a side to that, I told Joy a couple weeks ago, I said, “I never felt inclined because Such-and-such Baptist Church or Bible Church down the street is doing this, and we got to do that because it’s working over there. I just think that’s trend driven. There’s just no weight to that at all. I’ve never been on that boat.
Kevin Jones: I’m glad you haven’t, because a lot of pastors do that. I mean, I would do that some when I was working full time in churches too. I just would compare to the person down the street. It’s like, “That’s not who I’m called to be.”
Pastor Keith: And to me, when you do that what’s happening is you are saying what God has given me talents-wise, skills, I don’t want to – I want to turn kind of a blind eye to that, and I want to look and do what somebody else is doing. But Jesus wants to display His glory through us uniquely. You know? So read God’s Word, pray, ask Him for wisdom and for vision for ideas, and then just follow Him unique to the context that He’s giving us.
Bob Bonta: So let me turn the tables and ask you a question. Okay? So given what we’re talking about here with the view or the looking laterally rather than upward, looking horizontally rather than vertically, do you think as you’re looking vertically that God might have you take a perspective of those horizontally just to show you this can be done? Because you might have some apprehension of something that God may have called you to do, but He shows you off on the left, “See, I’ve done this here. I can do this with you too.” Do you see what I’m – do you see what I’m asking?
Pastor Keith: Yeah, I do. I think that logic and that flow is fine with me. That does happen. I think if our first inclination is just to look left and just go with that without pursuing God first is –
Bob Bonta: Exactly.
Kevin Jones: I think that ties right in with encouragement. If you’re looking up and God’s calling you to do something and you’re apprehensive about it, why not find encouragement from someone who’s doing that? So I think that’s a great thing.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, but our source, we just need to keep coming back to drawing near to God.
Bob Bonta: Absolutely.
Kevin Jones: Without a doubt, yes.
Pastor Keith: Who has been – maybe each of you share – somebody that’s been a model of encouragement to you in your life. And what about them was helpful?
Kevin Jones: My parents have always been amazing at encouraging me to do whatever God’s called me to do. I appreciate that. I could talk for hours about them. In this, I want to talk a little more about my first pastor that I worked for. His name is Dane Skelton. He’s still the pastor at Faith Community Church in South Boston, Virginia. I worked for him for six-and-a-half years. Still just incredible encourager. He hired me to work with him kind of as an intern part-time when I was 20 years old and I was terrible at everything. I mean, I look back at when I started doing – 20 years old, junior in college, just no idea what I was doing, really immature, and just to talk to him now, 13 years after that, and just the way that he in his God-given vision just saw who I could be. Maybe I didn’t even realize. He has always encouraged me to pursue those things. But I will also say I appreciate his encouragement because he’s not just a yes man. He tells me when I’m wrong, and he helps me to think about things from another perspective. If I’ve done something that’s – “That probably not the right way to think about that.” He’s quick to call me out for it in a loving way, but quick to encourage me towards the right direction.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, I want to follow up with that so that our listeners are hearing clearly here. It’s not that we can’t offer helpful critique about something, but it’s with the – as we do that, it should be with the driver to love and to build up. It’s a different heart position than coming across as an armchair quarterback looking over your shoulder going, “Oh, you messed up again. I wouldn’t do that.”
Bob Bonta: I mean, that reminds me of Satan being the accuser, that kind of heart attitude where, “You messed up. You messed up.” And that’s what Satan does to us. That’s what the Evil One does to us all the time. He did that in heaven with Job, just accused Job of all the things that he’s doing that he’s not faithful, when it’s not true. We’re not perfect people. We’re not perfect beings and we’re going to mess up, yes. But how those that are around us respond to us when we mess up, that can build us up or tear us down.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, exactly.
Bob Bonta: I’ve got two, if it’s my turn. I’ve got two. The first one, okay, on this Mother’s Day weekend that we’re approaching, my mom is my hero. I’m 62, and the last time I saw my dad was when I was 11. So growing up, my mom was my hero. I had issues when I was younger growing up. She was always there to encourage, provide what I needed, even at the sacrifice of things that she needed. She would do that for me. She did that for all of her children, all six of us.
But the question is, what person has inspired you the most, and my thoughts on that is that God’s inspiration in our lives is for Him to enliven us. God’s Word is inspired. It’s to enliven us, to stir our hearts, our minds, and our souls. Who it is that God uses to stir my mind, my heart, and my soul, those are the people that inspire me. And so I think of that as the men who have surrounded me in my ministry for the Lord and encouraged me. I think back over the years, those have been obviously Pastor Doug; you, Pastor Keith; Richard Ford, one of our previous education pastors here at Bethel; and then John Boquist, a very good friend of mine.
And I single him out because encouragement and growth doesn’t necessarily come in the everything’s roses type of garden. Sometimes encouragement and growth comes through conflict and adversity. John and I had this kind of relationship, when he was the worship leader here at the church, the music director here at the church, that we oftentimes butted heads. And it was just the strong personalities that we had. But even in the midst of that, man, we loved each other. And even in the midst of the conflict, we grew through that, and through that conflict – you know, for something to grow, something has to die and then be just kind of grown and watered and cultivated. Like with the seed in the ground, it has to die and then grow. And in that relationship that I had with John, that’s what happened with me and my heart. Because I had a very bitter seed within me, and that seed had to die so that God could really grow me.
And John was the one that God used in that conflict, in that adversity that we had. He was the one that God used to bury that seed of bitterness in my heart and grow me. I’m not trying to pat myself on the back, but I think the Lord’s done a decent job of growing me, and I’m so appreciative of that relationship I had with John. And he’s the one that resonates to me most of all – because of that, because of the amount that I’ve had, because of that relationship that I had with him back then that was cultivated and grown throughout the years.
Pastor Keith: That’s super neat, brother. I’ve never heard that before. That’s super neat. It requires a lot of humility on your part even now to say that.
Bob Bonta: When I first came to this church, it was a dark time in my history. It was a very dark, a very bleak time. But even in the bleak and dark times of our lives, God never leaves. He’s there and he’s faithful every day, every moment. When we can’t see, when we can’t feel, we don’t hear, He never leaves us and never forsakes us, and I’m a living testament to that.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, He’s faithful to complete the work that He has begun in us.
Bob Bonta: He is.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, absolutely. I know for me, my email, I keep words that people have sent me of encouragement. I keep them in a folder. I think it’s called encouragement. Because I know there’ll be some dark days that you feel like you could just use a word of encouragement. Do you all keep anything like that? Do you keep letters that people have written to you over the years?
Kevin Jones: Yeah, some. I’m trying to think where they are, but yeah. I tend to hoard things, and so I try not to hold on to it. But they are there with me, I guess. Even if I don’t remember the words exactly, I remember the feeling from that encouragement. If you’ve ever taken one of those personality tests – I like the Meyers-Briggs. I’m an ENFP all the way, feeler. So I remember feeling emotions, and when someone encourages me, that’s what I remember more than the words, personally.
Pastor Keith: Are you a card writer? Do you write cards of thanks and encouragement?
Kevin Jones: Not usually. I’m more of a phone caller. Not a lot of people use phones for phone calls anymore. I’m one of those people. I like to call somebody up. More of a visual person than I am – not visual, because the phone’s not visual. Auditory, there it – yeah, rather than writing out, I’d rather talk to somebody face-to-face or even on the phone.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, you are a phone caller.
Kevin Jones: I know not a lot of people are.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, I know. It’s like, “You’re calling me.”
Kevin Jones: Who does that?
Pastor Keith: Yeah, who calls?
Kevin Jones: I do that. That’s who does.
Pastor Keith: I’ll Facetime people all the time. My mom, one of the things that she’s really great at is she’s a letter writer. She’ll write a letter or a note of encouragement. If she hears somebody’s sick, she’s like, “I’m writing them a note of encouragement.”
Kevin Jones: That’s so good.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, it’s really good. My method a lot is text. I’ll text. If I’m thinking about it, I want to go ahead and get it.
Bob Bonta: I’m more of an electronics guy myself too. I’ve been working in IT and all that for the past 30-plus years, so the latest things you come out with, with electronic or IT or like that, I’m right there onboard with it. So I’ll send emails. I’ll send texts. I write half a sentence, my hand hurts. So writing a card or writing a letter is difficult. If I write a letter, it’s going to be typed out and then I’ll just sign it. I’ll physically sign it after I print it out or something like that. But the first part of your question was storing any encouragement that I receive. I think of the verse that, “Your word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you.” I’m a hider in my heart.
I think what you eluded to Kevin, was that when people send you a note or send you a card or give you encouragement, I don’t necessarily store the words, but the fact that you reached out to encouraged me, that your hand was on my shoulder to encourage me. Your arm was around me to hold me when I was weak and when I needed someone to hold me up. I remember that stuff. I have an awful memory. But what I do remember of things like that – I remember telephone numbers and addresses – but when people reach out to me, I remember that. In the transient life in the military, and I was 20 years in the Air Force, transient life in the military, not a whole lot of people reach out to you. I mean obviously family does, but you don’t really get all that much from some folks. I hear some military folks that have friends all over the world. For whatever reason, the dark times that I have been through, I haven’t gathered up – I haven’t been able to gather up too many what they – quote – what they call “friends.” And so when people reach out to me in that way, I store it up in my heart. It’s precious. It’s even more precious to me.
Pastor Keith: One of the things that I appreciate about you on this podcast of encouragement is that when you – when I give you a word of encouragement, you receive it. You don’t block it. That’s hard for some folks to hear a word of affirmation. I like to call that evidences of God’s grace that you are pointing out what you see God doing in the person. You’re not encouraging the flesh in a person, but you’re encouraging the supernatural activity of God. And that I appreciate that about you is you receive it. You don’t block it. When you block it, that’s a form of pride. You’re not willing to accept it. Kevin, you receive it to. In this last year or so, as I’ve been – you receive encouragement well, I think.
Kevin Jones: I need it, so I appreciate it.
Bob Bonta: I think we all need encouragement. We all need that arm around our shoulder, just walk alongside folks. We all need it. I don’t care who you are. It doesn’t matter what stage of life you’re in, you need that. We were made – this social distancing that we’re going through is difficult more so for some than it is for others. But man, it’s hard, because we need that interaction with other people. I mean, I do my best, but man, I need that.
Pastor Keith: You’re exactly right. This verse, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encouragement one another and build one another up.” We cannot have too much of that in the local church.
Kevin Jones: I agree.
Bob Bonta: Absolutely.
Pastor Keith: I mean, just more and more encouragement. It spurs us on to do Kingdom things in the ministry of Jesus Christ. Why do we see so much criticism in the culture now? If anything, social media has shined a spotlight or given an avenue for critics to come out, and it has, in my view, because people will say anything they want on social media now, it’s transferred over into in person. So they just – anything now, you can just criticize anything. Why do you think there’s such a – criticism is so rampant.
Kevin Jones: I think – again, theories. The social media aspect of it, it is easier to attack a random poster on social media, because it’s easier to dehumanize that person, I would say. In your mind, you may know in your mind it’s a person, but as you’re typing something, you’re more attacking a concept or the words that someone else has said rather than criticizing the person. So I do think it’s much easier for people to be critical online. It’s easier to write an angry email than to talk to someone to their face in an angry way, much easier ways to do that. And I think that’s part of it. I think you have hit on that aspect of it for sure. But I do think, yeah, there’s a little bit that it’s translated to in person as well, just because people have realized, “Oh, I can be critical. I can do that. I, for some reason, like how it makes me feel when I’m critical. I don’t know why.” And maybe don’t know why it is.
I believe people – to not go into too much, I think we’re encouraged to be polarized by your culture in some ways. The farther apart that we can be pushed in our minds, the better. There are so many opposing views on any number of things, whether it’s religion, politics, whatever it is. Whatever ways we can be separated, I feel like our minds just look for those things. And we tend to see someone who holds an opposing view as an enemy of ours rather than, “Hey, you know, we might be different, but what can we find that’s common ground,” or, “I might not agree with you, but I appreciate this about you.” We don’t look for those things as much. It’s just we want to criticize this opposing view, which most of the time is represented by a person. When you humanize something that you disagree with, you may not agree, you may not change your mind, but it changes your attitude towards it.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, years ago when I was in college, I heard a sermon; it was hilarious. The guy used an illustration. He was talking about having a critical spirit, and that’s what I really want to drive down deep to. But he said – he was giving illustrations, and one of the things he said is, “So-and-so, why don’t you come up here and instead of prayer, lead us in a word of criticism. You’re good at that.” [Laughter] “Lead us in a word of criticism.”
Bob Bonta: Arrow through the heart.
Pastor Keith: That’s what I really want to drive down into is having a critical spirit. What is behind a critical spirit root? Bob, what do you think?
Bob Bonta: Well first of all, I don’t think all criticism is bad.
Pastor Keith: No.
Bob Bonta: Criticism is just a way of kind of verbally identifying something that might not be right.
Pastor Keith: That’s constructive, in love critique and criticism that’s helpful.
Bob Bonta: Criticism, feedback, I think you mentioned, eluded to it or said it earlier, criticism or feedback that’s tendered in love it encourages and it can build up. Some people respond better to in-person contact in that criticism. But what hurts is that selfish and the haughty words, “I want to bring you down and elevate myself, and I’m going to criticize you because I don’t like what you have to say. I don’t like what you think. I don’t like what you’re doing. It’s wrong. It’s judgemental, and I’m so much better than you.” All of that, it’s put out there with the intent to tear down for the purpose of tearing down and not for the purpose of building up. I think of my time in the military, “Why are you telling me to do this, sarge?” And it’s because Regulation 6-4 says you’ll do it. My 6-4 says you’re going to do it. It’s my way or the highway.” And people have that mindset, “It needs to be done my way or it doesn’t get done at all.”
Pastor Keith: Or it’s second class.
Bob Bonta: Yeah, “My way is the only way to do this, and anything less is deficient. Anything less is less than perfect because of course my way if perfect.” Right? So that my way or the highway, that mindset, it raises the bar too high for people to meet. And when we set that bar so high, man you’re destroying relationships that you have with other people. And that criticism in our culture, we see that, there’s no accountability in the conversations that we have online. We just put it out there. Kevin, you were saying we just put it out there, and it’s like there’s no backlash, whatever. And if someone says something to me that I don’t like, I can just block that. You know, on Facebook, Instagram, or whatever, I can just block that person.
Kevin Jones: Ignore it or delete it.
Bob Bonta: I don’t have to worry about it. Or delete. And it’s no longer an issue for me because it’s gone. But it isn’t because other people, they’ve seen that. They’ve been in on it. But there’s no consequence for our actions and our words. And you know when we’re dealing with people face-to-face and we say something, just the expression on their face when you say it, does that hurt your heart when you see that expression when you say something that tears down? Does it hurt your heart when you see that? That’s an indicator of your heart and where it is and why you’re saying what you’re saying. If you say something and they just absolutely break down in tears, how’s your heart? What does your heart feel like? That’s like a PowerPoint presentation on a billboard for the whole world to see that you have a cold heart.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, that’s right. That’s really helpful stuff. We all can probably think of people, and hopefully it’s not us, as we think of ourselves with sober judgement, but people that are critical people that you’re like, “Oh, I want to kind of not be around this person, because everything they say is negative Nancy or they’re going to critique every single thing.”
Bob Bonta: Debbie Downer.
Pastor Keith: Debbie Downer. Lord, help us to not be critical in that way, because that’s a spirit of criticism that’s got a prideful root. Pastorally there’s so many things underneath that, and whenever I encounter somebody like that, I just want to have a coffee with them and sit down and unpack, “Why are you so – what’s going on in your heart that everything you think is – got to be right and the person – you criticize everything. You can’t be right on everything. What is really behind that?” So I just pray that God would give us hearts to be faithful Jesus encouragers.
Kevin Jones: I agree.
Bob Bonta: I got to tell you, that’s a very area that I have a problem with, because in the IT field that I work in, everything’s just 0s and 1s. There’s nothing in between. It’s either right or wrong, true/false. So that mindset, program software development, things like that, that comes home often. So I battle that all the time. I look in the face of my wife or my children when I’m talking to them, and the very thing that I was just describing about what’s in your heart when you see someone breaking down or something like that, I have to stop myself from talking sometimes because of what I say, how it’s impacting that person. I have to be careful. And I try to be mindful. I try to evaluate myself, as I’m talking, in how is that affecting that. And social media does nothing to help us measure the impact of what we say and do online.
Kevin Jones: I agree. Yeah. I try to never engage in any kind of contentious argument online, because if I’m going to talk to somebody about something contentious, it will be to their face where they are humanized to me. I mean, that’s just what it is. It’s just too easy to dehumanize somebody in your mind online, because you’re typing – keyboard warrior is the way I like to put it. I just refuse to discuss anything contentious. I can’t do it.
Bob Bonta: I don’t think that there are any winners online. When you get in a situation like that, everyone’s a loser. Everyone loses in that.
Kevin Jones: I agree.
Bob Bonta: Everyone loses.
Pastor Keith: The church is hurt. Do you think – I was getting ready to ask and talk about affirming people that you’re doing everyday life with and why we don’t affirm people more. Do you think we’re just so clouded and focused on ourselves that we’re not even aware sometimes of how God is working in somebody else to point that word of encouragement?
Kevin Jones: I think so. I think we just forget that it’s necessary. I just think we forget that we need to build each other up. It’s just easy to forget. We say, “Well, they know that I like them,” or, “They know that they’re good at this,” or, “They know how I feel.” And yeah, that’s true. Of course that’s true. But why not say those words? You talk about feelings and emotions, the people I remember the most in my life, whether I’m friends with them or whether I knew them for like a month, the people I remember the most are the ones who made me feel good about who I am. Now that sounds arrogant and prideful, and I think that’s maybe why it’s so hard for us to receive encouragement too, and hard for us to give it, because we don’t want to – I don’t know if we don’t want to feed pride, but that’s not what it – if it’s received – if it’s given in humility and received in humility, that encouragement is so healthy. And the people that I remember are the ones who encouraged me in a healthy way, whether or not I’m still in contact with them.
Bob Bonta: Well, encouragement doesn’t come with all flowery words to say, “You’re so good looking today.”
Pastor Keith: Yeah, because that’s flattery.
Kevin Jones: Right, and that’s different.
Bob Bonta: Encouragement isn’t with all positive words. Sometimes encouragement comes with negative words, of laying out the fact that, “Brother, you’re wrong. I’ll pray with you about this,” or whatever, so it can be fixed. But the encouragement comes when speaking the truth in love. That’s where encouragement comes from. Rather than allowing you to go down an avenue – my brother, my sister – rather than allowing you to go down an avenue that’s going to just be bad for you, love is helping you get back on the right road. Encouragement is helpin’ you get back on the right road. So the words I say may not be pleasing to hear, but they’re helpful. They’re encouraging, because, you know what? You’re right. I was wrong, and I need to get back on the right road.
Pastor Keith: It comes from the heart from somebody that loves you.
Bob Bonta: Absolutely.
Pastor Keith: I think about a wonderful example early on in my ministry, his name was Scott Harrower, when I was serving in Chicago at Winnetka Bible Church. He’s Australian. He’s in Australia now. He’s was studying with D.A. Carson at Trinity Divinity School. He was his assistant. But Scott, he’s an amazing brother, and he is a faithful encourager. I was wanting to grow in my area of worship leadership, but Scott faithfully encouraged me all the time. And I knew that he loved me and he wanted to see the beauty of Christ shine brightly in my life, that he would sit down and tell me ways of how I could be strengthened in leading the church. And he would be very – I mean, he would just tell me. We’d just talk about it. But I knew that that guy loved me, and he didn’t have a critical spirit coming at me. He was offering me helpful critique to further the kingdom of God, but I felt love from it.
Bob Bonta: He didn’t come to you with an agenda. He came to you with a spirit love through Christ.
Kevin Jones: Or if he did, his agenda was for your good.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, and he didn’t send me an email and go, “I would do these five things different next week. Scott.” He met with me and said, “I really appreciate how you did this. Let’s think about how we can strengthen that.” And then through the week, his kind friendship and ministry to me gave me an open heart to receive. We tend to close the shades of our souls – hearts to people when we know that somebody’s going to come and gab us. But if somebody has a heart to love us like – I would welcome anything that they have to say.
Bob Bonta: When we know that people are coming with arrows and spears to hurt us, yeah, we put up our armor. We put up that armor to shield us from those flames of fire.
Pastor Keith: Yeah, we do. I just want to end here on this podcast episode by just exhorting us all to be faithful, Jesus-exalting encouragers. Even today as we’re listening, as the three of us are talking, what ways today can we encourage the people that we’re getting ready to meet in the rest of the day? Look to see evidences of God’s grace and affirm and strengthen the people that you come in contact with. As we prayed before this podcast, let’s pray that God would do a mighty act in all of Christendom, that there would be more of a spirit of God-centered encouragement and not of criticism. Thank you for listening to this episode.