An Alternative Culture: Learning to BEG (part I)

– By Ron Simkins

What is “Jesus’ Way of Living?” It seems clear in some respects, if we look at the counter-cultural way Jesus lived and what he taught. However, what his followers should emphasize in their own lives varies greatly from context to context.

It might help to think of how today’s society acts and responds in vastly different ways than Jesus did. Right now, for instance, one of the most counter-cultural challenges of “Jesus’ Way” is to see how different it is from the polarization and negativity and degrading talk of the current cultural milieu.

In response to that milieu, I would like to challenge each of us to learn from Jesus how to BEG. Before you read the following, please believe that I do not mean it in some fluffy and romanticized way. As a former athlete, and the parent of three children, I am deeply aware that positive encouragement can be honest, and even at times tough minded.

So, what do I mean? Today’s blog features the first part of a challenging acronym—one we also need to “beg” the Lord to empower among us.

TO BEG—B is for “BUILD”

Supporting texts (a few of many):

1 Corinthians 14:12—Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.

1 Thessalonians 5:10-11—Jesus the Messiah died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Can you imagine what it would look like if every time you walked into the NCF building, every time you walked into work, every time you walked into your house, every time you turned on your TV or Internet, everyone was trying to build others up—supporting them in knowing their value and in becoming all God made them to be! We are called to witness to tastes of this COMING society of Jesus NOW! Not just by saying it, but by allowing Jesus to empower us to do it!

A story about “building up:”

On Sunday, when I asked for personal stories that demonstrate this “building up,” V. told about how she was “built up” when she was just about crushed by life and abuse. Someone met with her regularly for 3 years and every time reminded her that “Jesus loves you.” She said, “I finally came to know it was true.”

Getting practical:

Do you have a story that would serve as a practical example of being built up? Or do you have input into how we can make the following challenge practical—in other words one we are living out in our daily lives? Please consider sharing it with the rest of us. I have no doubt that this emphasis is right, but I am not always the best person to come up with practical group responses that work for others.

Look for the second part of this post series next week.

Blessings,
Ron S

10 Comments On “An Alternative Culture: Learning to BEG (part I)”

  1. Hi Ron. I’m excited about the ways we could be transformed, as individuals and as a community, through your “BEG” approach to living. As you mentioned, lots of things sound good “on paper” but are hard to translate into a practical part of our daily lives.

    I was thinking about this more, and realized that I often don’t know enough about someone to know specifically *how* to build them up, and in what area they most need building up. Are they discouraged about work? Feeling stressed about parenting? Excited about something good that has happened? Maybe if we all start by asking one another questions—beyond the basic “how are you”—we would gain some practical insight into one another’s lives. I realize that asking questions like “What part of your life is causing you the most grief right now?” might fell a bit awkward, but what if we were able to make it the new norm?

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  2. I think that for me this means taking a closer look at how our culture’s love of the critique is impacting me personally. I really enjoy watching Bang for Your Buck where designers and realtors critique 3 different remodels because I love to see what people are doing with their homes, but I’ve noticed that I feel less satisfied and content with my own house when I am finished. When I make a meal, at home or at church, do I focus on what went well, or on what dish was too salty, which one was overcooked, that there wasn’t enough chocolate, and how I was unable to calculate the right amount for the number of people? At the conclusion of a worship service, do I express thanks to those who gave of their time and energy to lead us, or do I gab about how one song was too slow, the teaching went too long, and the communion bread was burned on the bottom? I wonder if the idea of constructive criticism and thinking critically in order to improve have become cloaks for a lack of thankfulness and dissatisfaction that too easily pervades my life/our lives. So, for me, building others up is about shifting to acknowledging each of our contributions as important and valuable, and cultivating an attitude of gratefulness.

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  3. @ALL – Good ideas all around. Enjoying this discussion. Cheers!

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  4. Kristin, I think your suggestion that we may have to become more comfortable with asking and answering questions in order to be the community of encouragers we wish to be is undoubtedly true. Let’s both (and anyone else who will help us) think about some positive ways to enhance such an environment. Would it work to have a Sunday Evening Fellowship Supper in which each table had only one task — ask questions of one another about what areas each of us would most would love to feel encouraged in and then promise to pray for one another to have specific answers from the Lord in this area? Other better and/or additional ways to get at this?

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  5. Renee, thanks for the very perceptive finger placed right on one of the major issues for many of us. We are, in fact, both habituated to, and proud of, our ability to identify problems and critique people, and we have had much less modeling of making the goal to build up and encourage others. Our media, our academic training, and business environment all model the critique method as primary. Interestingly, I recently started reading a book on corporate management in which the author who is a consultant for several large businesses argues that encouraging one another in pursuing the vision is far more productive than the “feedback” model used by most businesses. In fact, he argues that the common model is actually counter-productive to the goals of the business. If the book continues to be good, I’ll pass on the information. Let’s think of ways to challenge one another as a community to shift in this direction and see what the Lord might do with us.

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  6. Nic: And thank you for the encouragement!

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  7. I know this is wandering away a bit from practical suggestions, but I have been thinking about this as an artist, being critiqued. I’ll come at this from yet another television show perspective. I watched So You Think You Can Dance, a competition dance show. I think it is one of the best “reality” shows on TV. The kids (early 20’s mostly) competing hear constructive criticism after each performance, and they also hear about what they are doing right, and how talented they are. The judges however, do not shy away from pointing out problems, yet they do it in such a way that you see they are really trying to help the dancer to become better. Sometimes building one another up can look like criticism. Renee points out the danger in going too far toward criticism. I think it is a fine line to be sure our intention is to help the other become a better person, to build them up, not just to express our negative thoughts.

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  8. Hi Lorna,

    You are certainly right that encouragement can include things that are not always easy to hear. And, you are certainly right that “it is a fine line to be sure our intention is to help the other become a better person, to build them up, not just to express our negative thoughts.”

    Thinking about that fine line you spotlight — which I certainly also find to be a fine line:

    I wonder if at least two ways to check ourselves include: (1) Was I thinking about building up before I said/did what I did, or did I say it/do it/ out of my own frustration, and now I am trying to convince others and myself it was intended to build up? (2) Not quite as helpful, but helpful — upon reflection does the other person trust that I was trying to build up rather than degrade or put down?

    There must be other checks — anyone have insights and ideas?

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  9. So I’ve been thinking about Ron’s challenge to BEG a lot this week. As I told Ron privately, it’s changed my behavior in several specific ways: I made it a point to say positive things to people that ordinarily I’d have left unsaid. A couple of times it was a trivial adjustment to make. One time it was a lot harder, and there was no instant gratification: the recipient of my attempt at encouragement didn’t thank me, didn’t, in fact, appear to be encouraged, and I flirted with the “Why do I even bother?” reaction. But I’ve chosen to consider that encounter a mitzvah, and am willing to keep trying.

    What’s been really cool, though, about Ron making me aware of how important it is for me to try to encourage the people around me, is that I have become aware of how many people there are around me, who have been trying (all along–not just since Sunday!) to encourage me. Lots of them! And I’m saying now: I am grateful for it! Sometimes I know it’s just reflexive kindness, the kind of things kind people would say to anyone. But how cool is it that I get to live in a world with kind people like that? And sometimes it’s encouragement from people who really know me and who genuinely care about me. I’m doing a better job this week of *noticing* that care, and I do feel encouraged. Now I have to figure out what to do with all this courage….

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  10. Pingback: New Covenant Fellowship of Champaign IL» Blog Archive » An Alternative Culture: Learning to BEG (Part II)

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