Everyone needs encouragement. We need it as preachers. So we shouldn’t be surprised if our listeners do too! And yet, strangely, something that everyone needs, and everyone acknowledges is needed, seems to be strangely absent in a significant amount of preaching. Let me encourage you to encourage people as you preach.
Don’t think exhortation is encouragement. There is a need for exhortation, but people need to be encouraged too. Exhorting involves persuasion and a hint of rebuke, but encouragement injects hope, confidence and life.
Don’t think guilt is encouragement. To put it simply, it is not. Guilting people into conformity is a shortcut that may yield results, but it will be short-lived and counter-productive. Allow guilt to come by the conviction of the Spirit, but don’t add guilt where guilt is not the issue – that is a form of legalism.
Don’t think that enthusiasm is encouragement. Your enthusiasm may be contagious, but people may sit impressed by your passion, yet not feel encouraged in their own. Think through how to invest rather than simply demonstrate enthusiasm in your preaching.
There are other things we may offer and think we are being encouraging. But consider both your passage and your listeners, how can this be preached in a way that will encourage them? Robinson talks about the need for ten encouraging messages for every one rebuke. It is so counterproductive when we get that ratio reversed. Be encouraged as you read the Word, and look to share that encouragement as encouragement!