Finding the Balance: Reproof, Encouragement, and Exhortation

Acts 20:2
And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece,

Paul gave the church “much exhortation”. To exhort is simply to speak in such a way as to motivate or encourage people through sound advice or counsel to do that which is good or commendable. Often in a world as crazy as ours is today, it is very tempting for leadership to discourage people from doing those things which ought not to be done, rather than encouraging them to do that which should be done. On this note, there should be a healthy balance. We get in trouble when we lose balance on this issue. Some make it their primary “ministry” to reprove and rebuke, forgetting afterwards to exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine (2 Tim. 4:2). On the other hand, some make it their entire “ministry” to exhort, forgetting also to reprove and rebuke when necessary. Why is it that with every major issue in the Bible, there seems always to be an extreme left and an extreme right, making it difficult to find anyone in the “happy medium”?

As ministers of the Gospel, we are required as stewards to be found faithful with the whole counsel of God. We are required to walk in wisdom, for he that winneth souls is wise (Prov. 11:30). We are also told by Christ to be as wise as serpents, and harmless as doves (Matt. 10:16). This requires balance! Although the church is not only about motivational speaking, neither is it to be used solely as a battering ram! At times, our message places more emphasis on the need to repent of our wicked ways; at other times our message places more emphasis on the need to step up and be all you can be for Christ! At times, we come to church and fall under conviction for our sinful ways; at other times, we come to church to be comforted and inspired by the Holy Spirit to do something mighty for God! The truth is, at different times in life, different people need different things, and the only way we are going to be successful in ministry is by listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit, who knows exactly what everyone needs, when they need it!

Quit worrying about being called a “compromiser” when God tells you to speak a motivational sermon, and quit worrying about being called a “hell fire and brimstone” preacher when a stern message of warning is to be delivered. Bring balance, and obey God!

~ Pastor Gary Caudill
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