The past few days I’ve had the opportunity to retreat with the leaders of my church family. They are the church elders (we call them overseers). We range in age from 43 to 78. Most of us have been together for fifteen years. We know each other well and love each other deeply.
We began our annual getaway utilizing an affirmation exercise created by Intimate Life Ministries. Every man cited a character trait that we admired in each other. We linked this character trait with an example or story about that specific individual. Character traits included: security, dependability, compassion, acceptance, wisdom, discernment, patience, virtue, gentleness, generousity, deference, and more. Tears flowed. The laughter was contagious. A memory was made. We experienced “being in one accord.”
Some comments that permeated the room included: “I dread the day when we don’t have you in our midst any more.” “I feel safe here…covered.” “I will always have your back.” “We are blessed men to have each other.” “No one has ever said to me that I have the humility of Chirst. Thank you. It’s the greatest compliment I have ever received.” “I want to make sure that you are hearing how much these men love you.”
Let me encourage your cell and your cell pastors to participate in such an experience. It is life-giving. It fosters unity, trust, and security. Hearts will be knitted together through love.
Years ago, after participating in an affirmation experience, one of the leaders who had just received affirmation fron his co-leaders stated, “I’ve been waiting all my life to hear those words.” Needless to say, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
“Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29b, NLT).
Warning: The most difficult part of participating in an affirmation exercise is not affirming others. Rather, it is RECEIVING the affirmation of others. Receive well. It may be that you have been waiting to hear those words all your life.
If I may provide a more concrete framework for an affirmation exercise you are contemplating, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
by Pastor Rob Campbell