The Exhortation

"After the uproar had ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and when he had exhorted them and taken his leave of them, he left to go to Macedonia." Acts 20:1

Paul's preaching to the disciples, after the mob seized control of the assembly and threatened to carry out violence upon the leaders and the members of the church, focused on exhortation. The most visible and powerful leader of the church was about to leave town, and the residue of the riot was still on the hearts of the beleaguered disciples. They must have needed exhortation.

Note to self: People in the pews are always in need of exhortation. Leave them with hope. Thanks, J.C. Matlock.

Preaching without taking time for exhortation turns the pulpit into a lectern, and preaching assembly into a classroom. It is a training ground for warriors heading into a battlefield. At times I have placed signs at the exit of the churches I pastored that carried the message, "YOU ARE NOW ENTERING THE MISSION FIELD." They would have been more accurate to say, "YOU ARE NOW ENTERING THE WAR ZONE."

When the sermon outline completes the list of explanation, illustration and application, but doesn't save some time for exhortation, the people in the pews may receive correct information, but they leave with little inspiration. A head filled with facts, and a heart filled with faith provide the fuel for the fire that lights the way in the dark, and heats the soul in the dark of the night. Include both.

When people refuse to doubt in the dark, what they learned to be true in the light, their faith grows through those dimly lit periods that come into the lives of every believer. The character of Christ always shines brightest through believers in spite of irritating people and intimidating circumstances.

"Exhorting" is a translation of the transliterated word "Paraclete." It is the name given to the Person of and the ministry of The Spirit of Christ. Christian preachers at their very heart and soul are not just educators, but exhorters.

The word is given a long list of options by the scholars of "The Blue Letter Bible." In its most basic definition it means to call to one's side, or call for, or summon. Other options include...

1. to address, speak to, (call to, call upon), which may be done in the way of exhortation, entreaty, comfort, instruction, etc.

2. to admonish, exhort

3. to beg, entreat, beseech

4. to strive to appease by entreaty

5. to console, encourage, strengthen by consolation,comfort

6. to receive consolation, be comforted

7. to encourage, strengthen

8. exhorting and comforting and encouraging

9. to instruct, teach

Note to preachers: My humble suggestion is to start at the top of this list of definitions, and work your way down. Don't start at the bottom and work your way up.

Education is a beautiful thing, but exhortation turns it into a powerful weapon in the battle against evil. Great churches and institutions of Christian education are always in danger of becoming museums. Exhortation inflames and sustains them as movements, inspired by The Spirit of the Living Christ.

Paul exhorted the disciples after the uproar. This word for uproar or riot was used to describe what Pilate saw happening in the crowd, just before he washed his hands of any responsibility for the death of Jesus. In the middle of the worst kind of chaos, confusion, and clamor, God may be up to His best. Looks can be deceiving.

Exhortation calls for the Spirit of Christ to come along side of believers to make sense out of the senseless, and to provide faith for the fearful. Praying puts preachers and people in the pews close enough to see the face of Jesus, and hear the voice of His Spirit. Exhortation refuses to panic in the face of a riot. It looks for a revival to break out.

Praying preachers will be exhorting preachers, having a perspective in the face of intimidation that can only come from sensing The Presence of the Risen Christ. Jesus has been raised from the dead, and is not likely to be put to flight by someone who threatens to kill Him. Praying people won't panic until He does. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!