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image via Amber Sprung, CreationSwap, quote mine

Just the other day, someone was trying to give me a compliment. I think.

It’s great you are able to do ministry like this at such a young age, and be able to learn so much. You’re doing a great job for your age in life.

I smiled and cordially thanked him. My mind racing as he walked away. I kept thinking, “Was that an encouragement? A rebuke? A compliment? A slap in the face?”

A backhanded slap feels a little better when it’s couched with something nice, right? Especially if you can somehow mix God, ministry, theology, and “spiritual growth” all together. It’s kinda like being slapped by a sweet old grandma, while she gives you a kiss on the cheek. It’s kinda sweet. And kinda mean. And you don’t know whether to smile, be angry, run and hide, stand and fight, or curl up in the fetal position.

A few weeks ago, I was told, “For the task you’ve got in front of you, you’re doing well.” Again, I smiled and said thanks, but thought, “What does that even mean? If it were easier, would I not be doing well? If it were harder, would I be an abysmal failure?”

This is probably a reflection of my broken, depraved mind.

But I started thinking if there were other ways of encouraging someone…and backhanding them all at the same time. I came up with a few that we use in the Christian world. I call them “RebukEncouragements.” See what I did there? I brought together two biblical words and…well, you get it.


  • You’re doing a great job for your age.
  • For the task in front of you, you’re doing well.
  • I’m glad God isn’t done with you yet.
  • If God can save you he can save anyone.
  • To pastors: Most pastors aren’t as normal as you are.
  • To pastors: It must be nice having a job where you only have to work one day/week.
  • To pastors: For all of the extra “ministry stuff” you had to do this week, it’s amazing you could have pulled together a sermon at all. I’m glad you at least preached something.
  • God can love someone even as difficult as you.
  • It must be exciting for you that you still have so much to learn.
  • God has used you in my life to teach me patience.
  • Without you I wouldn’t know how to deal with difficult people.
  • I can’t even imagine how God’s going to use you when you grow in maturity.

Anything you’ve heard/said before that is a RebukEncouragement?



Christ follower, husband, father, writer, small groups pastor at Saddleback Community Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Pierre

    Great post, considering all you’re going through at the moment! ;-P

    • Ben Reed

      Well played, Pierre!

  • Carey Green

    TO A PASTOR (upon his retirement): “What are we going to do without your services?”

    TO ANYONE: “Did you lose weight?”

  • ThatGuyKC

    Jon Acuff would be proud of you.

  • Sherry

    Busted! My husband and I were JUST saying to each other that the pastor we just met was so ‘real’. LOL…. Glad we didn’t speak that to him! Need to be more careful of our RebukEncouragements!