Quite selfishly, one of the reasons I love my church is the great encouragement I get there. I am surrounded by men and women who purposefully seek to build up my faith and look for evidences of God's grace in my life. What is not to love?
I realize that is not always the case, however, and that is why I am posting the following. This is the third and final point of a sermon Spurgeon preached on October 18th, 1863, at the Cornwall Road Chapel, Bayswater. It is some of CHS's best stuff, as he speaks with a freedom on this topic that only such an occasion would provide.
Have you every purposefully and thoughtfully encouraged your pastor? I fear we spend far more time thinking about what we don't like rather than what little glimmer of good might be there. Perhaps you could go on an "encouragement hunt" this weekend, looking for ways to build up your brother? If nothing else, such strengthening will result in a stronger man, better preaching and more good for your soul!
It struck me some six weeks ago that I might say a few things to my brother's congregation which he might not like to say himself, and that as this was a new enterprise—and I am sure all our hearts anxiously desire it the very richest success—I might possibly take the liberty of saying a few things to you, the congregation clustering around this pulpit, which may be useful in the future of the Church. I shall speak of him as a stranger, as I should speak of any other young man anxious to build up a Church and glorify his Master. I believe there is a special occasion for the exercise of this duty of encouraging one another in the case of the minister and Church in this place. It is a fresh enterprise surrounded with peculiar difficulties, and demanding special labor. "Why," say you, "should a minister need encouraging? We have plenty of troubles all the week long, with our losses here, and crosses there, we want encouragements, but surely ministers do not." Ah! if you want to have a refutation of that idea you had better come into this pulpit, and occupy it a little time. If you would like to exchange, I would truly say that so far as the pleasure of my voice is concerned, apart from the spiritual joy my Lord gives me, I would change places with a crossing-sweeper, or a man who breaks stones on the road. Let a man carry out the office of a Christian minister aright, and he will never have any rest. "God help," says Richard Baxter, "the man who thinks the minister's an easy life." Why, he works not only all day, but in his sleep you will find him weeping for his congregation, starting in his sleep with his eyes filled with tears, as if he had the weight of his congregation's sins resting on his heart, and could not bear the load. I would not be that man in the ministry who does not feel himself so fearfully responsible, that if he could escape from the ministry by going with Jonah into the depths of the sea, he would cheerfully do it; for if a minister is what he should be, there is such a weight of solemn concern, such a sound of trembling in his ears, that he would choose any profession or any work, however arduous, sooner than the preacher's post. "If the watchman warn them not they shall perish, but their blood will I require at the watchman's hands." To sit down and spell over the question—"Am I free of his blood?" is terrible. I have sometimes thought I must have a day or two of rest, but I frankly confess that rest is very little rest to me, for I think I hear the cries of perishing souls, the wailings of spirits going down to hell, who chide me thus: "Preacher, can you rest? Minister, can you be silent? Ambassador of Jesus can you cast aside the robes of your office? Up! and to your work again." As Mr. Whitfield said, when he thought of the ministry, and what was concerned in it, he wanted to stand on the top of every hackney coach in London and preach the gospel as he rode along. It is a work so solemn that if you do not encourage your minister, your minister will probably sink down in despair. Remember that the man himself needs encouragement, because he is weak. Who is sufficient for these things? To serve in any part of the spiritual army is dangerous, but to be a captain is to be doubly exposed. The most of the shots are aimed at the officers. If Satan can find a flaw in our character, then it will be, "Publish it, publish it, publish it!" If he can lead us to keep back a doctrine or go amiss in practice, or wander in experience, he is glad enough. How delighted is the devil to break the vessels of mercy. Pray for the poor man, whom you expose to perish, if you do not preserve him by supplication. If there were a ship at sea stranded and broken on the rocks, and some one volunteered to carry a rope to the sinking crew, you, standing on the shore, could do no more, methinks you could not do less, than cry, "O God! help him to bear the rope to that wrecked ship." Pray for the minister and encourage him, for there are plenty to discourage him. There are always carping spirits abroad who will remind him of any fault; he will be afflicted by those dastards who will not dare to sign their names to a letter, but send it to him anonymously; and then there is the devil, who, the moment the man has got out of the pulpit, will say, "There is a poor sermon! You will never dare to preach again." After he has been preaching for weeks there will come a suggestion, "You are not in your proper sphere of labor." There are all sorts of discouragements to be met with. Professing Christians will backslide. Those who do remain will often be inconsistent, and he will be sighing and crying in his closet, while you, perhaps, are thanking God that your souls have been fed under him. Encourage your minister, I pray you, wherever you attend—encourage him for your own sake. A discouraged minister is a serious burden upon the congregation. When the fountain gets out of order, you cannot expect to find water at any of the taps; and if the minister be not right, it is something like a steam engine in a great manufactory—everybody's loom is idle when the motive-power is out of order. See that he is resting upon God and receiving his divine power, and you will all know, each Sabbath day, the benefit of it. This is the least thing you can do. There are many other things which may cause you expense, effort, time, but to encourage the minister is so easy, so simple a matter, that I may well press upon you to do it.
Perhaps you will say, "Well, if it be so simple and easy, tell us, who are expecting to settle down in this place, how we can encourage the minister here." Well, you can do it in several ways. You can encourage him by very constant attendance. By the way, looking round here, I think I know some of the persons present who belong to neighboring chapels. What business have you here? Why did you leave your own minister? If I see one come into my place from the congregation of another brother in the ministry, I would like just to give him a flea in his ear such as he may never forget. What business have you to leave your minister? If everyone were to do so, how discouraged the poor man would be. Just because somebody happens to come into this neighborhood, you will be leaving your seats. A compliment to me, you say. I thank you for it; but now, in return, let me give you this advice: these who are going from place to place are of no use to anybody; but those are the truly useful men who, when the servants of God are in their places, keep to theirs, and let everybody see that whoever discourages the minister they will not, for they appreciate his ministry.
Again, let me say by often being present at the prayer-meeting you can encourage the minister. You can always tell how a Church is getting on by the prayer-meetings. I will almost prophecy the kind of sermon on the Sabbath, from the sort of prayer-meeting on the Monday. If many come up to the house of God, and they are earnest, the pastor will get a blessing from on high; it cannot but be, for God opens the windows of heaven to believing prayer. Never fail to plead for your pastor in your closet. Oh, dear friends, when you mention a father's name, and a child's name, let the minister's name come forth too. Give him a large share in your heart, and both in private and public prayer, encourage him. Encourage him, again, by letting him know if you have received any good. Oh, if there should come into this house of prayer a sinner needing a Savior, and not knowing the way, and my brother's words shall point him to the Savior's cross; if he should be the means of showing you what faith means, and of leading you to believe in him who hath reconciled us unto God by his death, do not conceal the good news—come and tell it. The best way to do it will be by proposing to be united with the Church in fellowship. Our Church meeting-nights, when we receive fresh candidates into fellowship, are the harvest nights in the Christian ministry. Then we see how God's cause prospers in our hand. But if many in the Church who have been converted fail to let the minister know it, and hold back, how is the poor man to be comforted? I know I address some here—God's people—who have never made a profession. Suppose all God's people did as you do—and they have as much right to do it as you have—how, I ask you, would the ministry itself be maintained? How could ministers' hearts be kept from breaking, if they never knew of any conversion? Make haste. Do not put it off. Delay not to keep God's commandments, but come forward at once, and acknowledge what God has done for your soul.
Again, you can all encourage the minister by the consistency of your lives. I do not know when I ever felt more gratified than on one occasion, when sitting at a Church meeting, having to report the death of a young brother who was in the service of an eminent employer, a little note came from him to say, "My servant, Edward—is dead. I send you word at once, that you may send me another young man; for if your members are such as he was, I never wish to have better servants around me." I read the letter at the Church meeting, and another was soon found. It is a cheering thing for the Christian minister to know that his converts are held in repute. Of another member of my Church an ungodly employer said, "I do not think anything of him; he is of no use to anybody; he cannot tell a lie!" Oh, that is the honor which a Christian minister longs and pants after, to have consistent followers, to have those listening to him who will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
Gather round my brother, all of you, and encourage him, by earnestly aiding and abetting him in every good word and work. There is a neighbourbood here, I am told, requiring evangelization. Here we have, side-by-side, poverty and riches. Shall not yonder wretched potteries be the better for the building of this house of prayer. I am sure my friend Sir Morton Peto would think he had wasted his money, if it were merely for the gathering of a congregation, and not for improving the neighborhood. We build our houses of prayer always with a view to the people round about. We believe it is like opening a well in the wilderness, or a caravansary or oasis in the desert, or placing a drinking-fountain where thirsty souls may drink. It is introducing a new physician into the neighborhood to attend to the diseases and sickness of souls. Oh, how my heart yearns after the success of this house—not only because the minister is my brother, but because he is a valiant soldier of Christ. To preach the truth he has not hesitated to make himself a multitude of enemies elsewhere, and will not be ashamed to do the same here, if the same case should occur. I honor him, because he has honored my Master; and I expect that you will get from him the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth—so far as God has taught it to him. I know he is ready to lay down his own neck for the conversion of souls. I know his earnestness to do anything for the conversion of sinners. And if you do not encourage him, you will bring down upon your head every curse of those who reject the prophet of God, but encouraging him, you will see a Church flocking around him which shall last long after our time, which shall be a perennial stream of benediction to ages yet unborn, until Christ himself shall come and consummate the kingdom, by reigning himself in person among the sons of men. May the Lord grant his blessing!
Some of you cannot encourage the minister. You can encourage no one, for you are not born again yourselves. Oh, if you have not passed from death unto life, the first thing that can encourage him is to begin to think about your own state. Where are you? What are you? Out of God, out of Christ, out of safety? You will be out of life and out of heaven—shut in the pit for ever, except you repent. Oh, you will encourage the preacher, if the Lord lead you to consider your ways and turn from sin and from self-righteousness too, and look to the Almighty Savior, able to save unto the uttermost all among you who shall trust him. May the Lord add a blessing, for Christ's sake. Amen.