“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his [Jesus] coming back again is drawing near.”1

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6 Reasons to Sit in a Different Seat at Church This Weekend

OUCH! Speaks to me

You Have One Wing, I Have Another

~ Sayable

When I first started keeping a blog, it was the year 2000 and blog was still called weblog and only .01% of the population knew what that was. My page was white and green (some things never change), and was called Like One Angel from a song by Burlap to Cashmere. A song I still love (even though the music is cheesy as heck now…). It’s about being in the mess of life together, and my life was nothing if not a mess at that point. It’s ironic looking back because there has never been a time I felt more alone in my life. That page was a bit like a message in a bottle for me, sending words out into the world, not knowing if they’d ever be read or ever come back to me or if they’d sink to the depths and I would too.

The lyrics went like this:

Trying to get people to worship

by Larry Crabb

I sometimes wonder if the most serious mistake we make in our churches is trying to get people to worship. Robert  Webber puts it well when he says:

Worship is the response of the people to God’s saving initiative. The inner person receives God’s acts of salvation communicated in public worship with humility and in reverence, service and devotion.

The passion to worship needs an opportunity for release. The Christian longs for a chance to worship. But frenetic efforts to stir the passion produce only a shallow counterfeit. Both traditional and contemporary styles of worship provide that change when the worship leader has nothing of himself at stake and is therefore not trying to make anything happen for his sake. We must learn to structure the opportunity to worship, to re-create the even that stirs our hearts, and then get out of the way and let the Spirit do the work of drawing to Christ.

~ Becoming a True Spiritual Community, p.112

Spiritual community is always a miracle

by Larry Crabb

Spiritual community is always a miracle. It cannot be programmed into existence. It will never be successfully scheduled to take place on Tuesday evening when the small group meets. Yet we still try to manage community. We end up settling for either an occasionally convincing counterfeit of community, where all that’s missing is the Spirit, or we lose hope that we’ll ever experience the real thing. And, of course, we won’t — not as long as we stay in control.

Becoming a True Spiritual Community, p. 165

God Intends That We Encourage One Another

by Larry Crabb

God intends that we be people who use words to encourage one another.  A well-timed word has the power to urge a runner to finish the race, to rekindle hope when despair has set in, to spark a bit of warmth in an otherwise cold life, to trigger healthful self-evaluation in someone who doesn’t think much about his shortcomings, to renew confidence when problems have the upper hand.

Encouragement, P 25

Scots don’t do praise

Scots don’t do praise. Of God, yes (a little), but not praise of one another.

Instead, we specialize in pulling people down, thinking the worst of others, and puncturing anyone who achieves anything. We can’t let a compliment pass without balancing it out with a criticism, and woe betide anyone who makes anything of life: “They’re just full of themselves!”

Where did this come from? Well, there’s no question that the cynical “build ‘em up to pull ‘em down” media is partly to blame. The evil envy of rabid and rampant socialism has also eaten away at much goodwill and gratitude towards achievement and achievers. But I’m afraid that a distorted Calvinism has also contributed to this soul-shriveling cynicism.

American Contrast
I didn’t see it so clearly when I was part of it, but with the distance of 5 years in the USA between me and my beloved homeland, it’s painfully easy to recognize and grieve over.

Perhaps it’s especially the contrast of my American sojourn that’s helped me to identify this Scottish ailment and my own contribution to it. Because if there’s one thing I can say about Americans, it’s that they are probably the most optimistic and cheerful people I’ve ever met.

True, this warm openness can sometimes lapse into gullibility: witness Jimmy Swaggert, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, Barings, Lehmans, J P Morgan, etc. They wouldn’t have got very far in Scotland, I can assure you. However, there’s something so refreshing about the American desire to think the best, say the best, and do the best to others. The cheerful celebration of success and the willingness to offer encouragement and praise is such a contrast to so much of Scottish life, and yes even of Scottish church life.

Distorted Calvinism
But why did I partly blame a distorted Calvinism for this? Well, the biblical belief in the total depravity of all men and women seems to have been sometimes misapplied to exclude any appreciation of humanity, even of redeemed humanity. “Don’t want to make him/her/them proud, do we!” Praise, encouragement, appreciation, affirmation is somehow thought to be incompatible with a belief in the universal sinfulness of men and women. To praise is to apostatize; to encourage is to backslide; to recognize achievement is to risk the damnation of the achiever.

If someone is praised, get a criticism in quick. If someone does well, remind them and everyone else of their previous failures. If someone gets a promotion, “Well, what goes up, must come down (hopefully).”

There are happy Scottish exceptions of course, but the corrosive effects of this negative spirit are wide and deep, and still plague me too.

Practicing Praise
That’s why I found Sam Crabtree’s Practicing Affirmation so challenging and yet so helpful. I’m amazed that this book has not had much wider “affirmation.” As John Piper says in the foreword, it’s a “one-of-a-kind book.” Do you know any other book that deals with the subject of how to praise others and to do so as a habit of life? No neither do I; and yet, as Sam demonstrates, it’s a topic with lots of Scriptural support and explanation, together with huge consequences for our families, friendships, and fellowships.

And although I think Scots like myself need to practice affirmation far more than Americans, there’s no question that American Christians increasingly need it too.

Worrying trends
I say that because among other worrying recent trends in America, I’m afraid that the celebration of good is weakening and a cynical critical spirit is spreading. I can’t say for sure where this has come from, but the inundation of bad news at home and abroad, the hostile hate-filled political climate, unjust corporate rewards, and our President’s regular planting and cultivating of class and economic envy have all played their heart-chilling, soul-shrinking roles.

So, if you want to learn what affirmation is, how to practice it, and what blessings it will bring to your life, stay tuned to the blog this week as I review Sam’s book. Or better still, buy the book and start praising God for His work in and through you and others. And maybe praise a few people along the way too.