That’s a great question. Paul says it’s important that those who receive good things from those who minister to them should share good things with them in turn (Gal. 6:6). Some commentators have thought there is a financial element in that, but I think this is a principle that applies to all of us.
When we benefit from a gift that Christ has given to someone else, we ought to express the benefit that we get. Some of us can do that easily, while for others it’s a bit more of a challenge, but every single gift that Christ has given to the church through an individual is not given primarily for that individual. It may help that individual in all kinds of ways—it may enable him to feel significance in his service of Jesus Christ—but every gift that is given to you or to me is actually given to us for someone else. My own frame of reference is to think, “Christ has given me something for you.” That’s how I think about preaching: “Christ has given me something for you, and I want to give it to you. I am your servant for Jesus’ sake.”
The business of encouraging people often involves encouraging those who have a low view of their significance in the church that the Lord has given them a gift and you have benefited from it. That does not just include your minister, but also the people who are sitting around you. We especially need to encourage young people when we see their servant spirit and the way in which the Lord blesses their service. We need to encourage them to help them to see what they cannot see about themselves as they grow into the men and women that they are called to be.
I personally think elders, in particular, have a responsibility to encourage their ministers. The sad fact of the matter is that sometimes elders think about themselves as peers with their ministers but never encourage them. An interesting statistical survey would be to discover what percentage of elders in evangelical churches have ever encouraged their minister in any verbal way. Sensing the struggles that ministers have, I think many of them may have elders who have never said a word of encouragement to them but have been quicker to say a word of discouragement to them.
So, I think it’s a matter of expressing concrete encouragement for the ways in which ministers serve us and the struggles through which they go. It’s not an easy business today being a minister. It can be relentlessly difficult. It’s glorious, but it is not necessarily easy, and ministers need all the encouragement they can get.
I know I have often had more encouragement from my congregations than probably the vast majority of ministers, and I long that every minister would have that kind of encouragement. Scripture speaks about Barnabas being the “son of encouragement.” I sometimes call people the reverse of Barnabas. So, if you turn Barnabas around, you get “Sabanrab,” and there are “Sabanrabs” in the church. And if you are one, you need to stop being one and become a Barnabas. You will l benefit more from the ministry of your minister if you do that. If you are not benefiting, could it possibly be that you are not encouraging?