This article is part of the series “Raising GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.
Edify comes from the Greek “oikodomḗ” meaning ‘the act of building.’ We often use this word as a reference to spiritual encouragement. Edification is more than perfunctory praise; it is the endeavor to construct something strong.
To date, we have covered the first 4 E’s of Raising GenNext—Engage, Exemplify, Equip, and Entrust. This next E—Edify—is a critical part of the process. There is nothing worse for a person than to put out the effort to do something challenging, only to be ripped to shreds with the knives of criticism.
The millennial generation stands accused of being coddled with superficial praise. However, I believe that many of them (and other generations) can distinguish between genuine encouragement and false flattery. If we truly want to edify our children, new converts, and current Christians, our encouragement must be authentic and constructive.
How do we build each other up to raise a strong generation?
Ask evaluative questions
As a parent, I’ve been surprised to find that there are times my kids are harder on themselves than I am. (Not always, of course…When it comes to clean rooms, my standards are apparently stratospheric.) However, I find that asking them to evaluate their performance gives me a gauge as to where I need to correct versus where I need to compliment.
With adults, questions can be used in a similar way. For example: “I was so encouraged to see you up there leading the prayer. It’s great that you are so willing to be involved. How do you think it went?” They might say, “I can’t believe I forgot to include Mr. Jones in my prayer,” or “I felt like I was stumbling over my words,” or “Frankly, I was scared to death!” This questioning creates and opening to suggest corrective maneuvers or strategies for improved performance without crushing someone’s spirit. Before you speak, consider how you will encourage first, then ask your questions second. Remember: the goal is to build up not tear down.
In another scenario, let’s say a young man has taught the adult class for the first time. Maybe he didn’t respond well to some of the questions or maybe his premise was wrong for something he taught. Instead of telling him how wrong he is, take him aside later and ask him a question: “In class, you said [insert incorrect statement]; I’m curious as to how you got to that conclusion.” He might say, “Oh no! That isn’t what I meant at all. I’ll have to clarify that in my next class.” Excellent! You’ve just corrected your brother without crushing him. At that point, you can respond with something like, “Mistakes happen; it takes a lot of courage to teach a class. I’m sure your honest clarification will be appreciated. I am so thankful for your honesty and thank you for making the effort to teach and grow in your service to the Lord!”
If, however, he says, “well, that IS correct,” it’s time to take him out to coffee or invite him to your house so you can study the issue together. Don’t make it some horrible ordeal. This is to be conducted respectfully. Nobody enjoys being told outright how wrong they are, and I have seen classes in which people behaved horribly to the teacher—I mean full-on shouting! Such conduct is reprehensible, especially between Christians.
Learn from Aquila and Priscilla:
Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.
~ Acts 18.24-28, ESV
Did Aquila and Priscilla get into a shouting match with Apollos? Did they tear him down in front of all the people?
They “took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”
What did Apollos do after his discussion with Aquila and Priscilla? He went on to be a powerful advocate for Christ! He was edified. The way in which they approached him made all the difference. They encouraged and corrected to great effect.
Correction will not always be well-received. I was young once and I remember how much I hated to be wrong. I think what I hated more, though, was the callous approach. Sometimes things were said behind my back and reached me through other ears. To quote the children’s song, “Oh be careful little mouth what you say!”
On the other hand, I am indebted to the wonderful Christian men and women who gently corrected me (and sometimes gave me a needed slap on the wrist) to get me back on track. Typically those same men and women not only corrected, but had taken time prior to the correction to build a relationship with me. Correction will be more readily accepted when you have a connection with that person beyond mere acquaintance.
Provide Genuine Encouragement
Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
~ Proverbs 27.6, NKJV
I wish I could count the number of times I’ve seen it written or heard someone say, “if you love someone, you’ll support them no matter what they do.”
Those are the words of an enemy!!!!
If someone I love proclaims that standing in front of an oncoming semi-truck is their lifelong ambition, I will utterly and vehemently refuse to support their self-destructive dream. I’m going to do whatever I can to deter their course. I’ll try to talk them out of it. Argue if necessary. Maybe I’ll shove them out of the way if they go that far. Is it because I hate them? Absolutely not! Love does not equal a blank check of support!
Let us never be guilty of perfunctory praise.
Have you ever had one of those teachers who has high standards? They don’t hand out praise like candy, but when they do offer commendation it’s like the presentation of the gold medal? They have mastered the art of genuine encouragement. I wish I knew all the secrets so I could employ them myself…
Looking for something praiseworthy is challenging. Pray before you speak. Consider the person you will be addressing. Consider carefully what you are about to do, and then offer your encouragement.
If you withhold praise continually, a person may well give up in despair. Find something praiseworthy in what is being done and give genuine encouragement. If there is nothing praiseworthy, then may I suggest golden silence or—as mentioned above—some carefully crafted correction.
How do you edify your fellow Christians? Do you have any suggestions on how to give genuine praise? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
If you have missed the previous posts in this series, here is a list of what we’ve covered: