March 15, 2023
Using examples from their own lives, David and Karen Mains describe how important it is for each of us to encourage others.
Many of us need to practice the unique skill of encouraging others to be more than they thought possible. I thought, is there anywhere in scripture where I can find out where this is being taught? And I didn’t find where it’s being taught as much as where it’s being modeled. This is from the book of Acts. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas. And then it’s in parentheses, which means son of encouragement. So, it was kind of a nickname. So, Joseph, they didn’t call him Joseph, they called him Barnabas, which means the guy who comes and encourages us.
David: In this visit Karen we want to explore a different kind of gift – a thoughtful one. It’s possible. You’ve never given anyone before.
Intro: Welcome to the Before We Go podcast featuring Dr. David Mains and his wife, noted author Karen Mains. Here’s David and Karen Mains.
Karen: Looking back on your life David, can you come up with the time when someone encouraged you in a way that you would absolutely have missed? Hadn’t even thought about it until that special person said something about this.
David: Instantly a person comes to mind.
Karen: Okay. Well, who would that be now? What we’re doing right now is an exercise we’ve done to get ready for this podcast and we’re recommending that everyone who listens to it does the same exercise. So go ahead. Who was that person?
David: A teacher in high school. I was in high school. There were three grades in our high school and there were about 800 students. I know those are pretty inaccurate figures. And I was one of those 800 and I never really thought that much about who I was or what I was doing. I was a junior. And this teacher Mr. Perino, he was the most popular teacher on campus. There’s no question. He called me into his office, and he said, “I’d like to talk to you about something,” he said, “You know Alan, he gave his last name.”
Karen: Another student
David: Yes. “He’s going to be running for student body president. I think you could beat him.” He said, “I wonder if you’ve thought it all about running.” I had never ever served such a thing. It was, I mean, I was pretty much non-descript. I had my interest areas. And he said, “In fact, I think you’d beat him quite handily.” I was effortly dumbstruck. It was like coming totally out of the blue. I took him seriously. I thought about it, and he asked me later and I said “I think I’ll do it” and he said, “Good I’m glad that you’ve been open to that.” And by golly I won in a landslide. I was amazed. But apart from that, in fact, I didn’t even have a campaign person. You know, I did have a committee make my own post.
Karen: Did your parents even know this was happening?
David: I doubt that they did.
Karen: Oh, my goodness David.
David: That totally changed my life. I began to think different thoughts. I had one period a day they gave as a time to meet with other student officers.
Karen: This was after you’d won the election?
David: Yeah. And then in my whole senior year I had one period a day just to work on student council matters.
Karen: Oh, my goodness.
David: I met people I never would have met before. I thought in terms of organization. It was amazing to me. And I look back and I think dear Dan Perino. He changed my life.
Karen: Yeah, and then that’s something. And I think that’s the moment that teachers live for it too. Sometimes maybe they don’t always know the impact of their efforts.
David: Do you have a teacher like that?
Karen: I do. I was in junior high. I can’t remember if I was even younger yet – 7th or 8th grade. And my mother was a published writer. So, she always encouraged me. I joke and say my mother never said “Karen, how are you?” She would ask me what I was writing. I mean, this was even very young. But those are your parents, you know, they were always extremely affirming and supportive. But this junior high teacher. I had done and we’d all done an assignment in class. I don’t even know what it was on. I think she was a social studies teacher. I don’t remember a name. I can remember what she looked like – she had gray hair and glasses and she called me up after class. And she said “Karen, I just want to say something to you.” And she had handed me back my paper with a very good grade on it – an A or an A plus. And she said, “You’re the kind of person who is never going to be happy unless you keep writing.” Isn’t that extraordinary? Now, how do you even see that? And then junior high’s writing it? You know, it must have been different enough from the rest of what the other students were turning in. I suppose I’d done other pieces for her, so it wasn’t just that one piece I turned in. But I remember it and I never forget it. I never forgot it. It was just one of those words fitly spoken that changed my trajectory. Now I might have gone on and written anyway because my mother was very encouraging that way. But having it come from an outside source. It was pretty significant for me. So, again another teacher story from our lives. I think if we would go back into a lot of people’s lives you would find that there were significant adults, a teacher like that as well.
David: Let’s see if we can get away from teachers.
David: I’m thinking of another individual. He was an advertising executive. I was in my first pastoret. We were in the inner city of Chicago.
Karen: He was from New York.
David: Yeah, he came to Chicago every swap. Actually, he was a Vice President at Saatchi and Saatchi which at the time was the second largest advertising firm in the country.
Karen: Maybe the world. I don’t know.
David: Yeah, and I remember he pointed out ads I had seen on television that he had done. And he would go to the church when he was in Chicago and kind of come up afterward and stand around and then talk.
Karen: Well, let’s paint a picture of it. We met in a Teamsters Union Hall. The average age of the congregation was 28 years of age. Eventually grew to the size of 500 people, probably in the year, year and a half. Our goal was to renovate or renew the worship form of the church and then to make the emphasis the lay people and to be interracial. So, there was a buzz about what we were doing that existed in our little area of the church world.
David: Yeah, but I had never had somebody who was a vice president. Saatchi and Saatchi. Who would stand around after it says.
Karen: Probably 20 years older than you were, maybe 15 years older.
David: And he would say “That was amazing, what you did.”
David: He said, “In fact, I don’t know anybody in my team of creative people who does the kind of thinking that you do.” Then he started to help us in terms of our lives. He would say, “You need to fly to New York and come and visit us.”
Karen: Yeah, and “We’ll show you the city. Bring your kids along because I’ve got”, you know, he had high schoolers and college students, young college students in his family, “and they’ll do the babysitting and you and Karen and his wife, Shirlene, and I will go to the city.” And my goodness, David. I mean, that went on for decades.
David: At least a decade. Yeah. And he had all kinds of complimentary tickets. He would take us to theaters.
Karen: Because he was at Sachi and Sachi. So, people wanted, you know, those top execs to attend their theater performances. We saw Jason Robards and Colleen Dewhurst and Amon from Miss Begotten in New York City.
David: He picked us up on the plane, whipped us into the city, plunked us right down in those good seats which he had.
Karen: Meryl Streep in her young career. They were doing Shakespeare in Central Park. We went to them about that. And so, we get, you know, to go with the Dunkertons to all these extraordinary events.
David: And he did that continually. In fact, he was the reason why you were invited to be on the Intervarsity Board. Right. And then he still wasn’t finished with us because he was saying, “Karen, you have leadership skills beyond what you understand.”
David: And it was because of Tom.
Karen: My name was submitted because of Tom Dunkerton to be on the Intervarsity, which is an international student movement, on their board. And I had never done any kind of really significant board work before. So, it was a big risk for him to bring me in. He just thought that I would function well that way and they needed women. They also needed verbal women because at that time women who were sitting with a group of what we’ll call them corporate princess, good people but very, you know, high up in their organizations. They just shut up and those women would just shut up at the board table. They were so intimidated by it or not used to speaking out. So that was I think my main qualification that I was not afraid to do that. But it was just an introduction to another world.
David: Because of Tom you were the one who eventually became chairperson of the board.
Karen: I became the chair of the board, the first woman chair of that board. and he would coach me after every meeting. Not talking loud enough at the table. Some of those old guys can’t hear so well or whatever. I mean there’s coaching in the hallway. I just read something by Melinda Gates. The secretary of the treasury at that time, it’s not this person, is not named. So, whoever was the secretary of the US treasury at that time took her on as a mentoree and he would go around saying, “This is Melinda Gates, she’s a rock star.” And on and on and on to the point that it just embarrassed her to death. So, she said to this man “Don’t do that anymore. I can’t stand it.” And he said “Melinda, this is how it works.”
Karen: You have a mentor, and particularly a male mentor. Studies have shown that male mentors are actually more valuable than female mentors because they’re being credited for encouraging diversity. Rather than a woman mentor who is just sort of doing her feminist thing. I mean that’s not really true but that’s how it’s perceived. So that’s what Tom became. And this was 20, 30 years ago. I don’t even remember how far back it was. Not only was he a mentor, but he was also a great friend. I teased him to death, and he would hump around. But we would also do this at the board table. And yet we demonstrated out of that relationship how much we cared for one another and how people who were distinctly different, I mean totally different personalities, could function as a team. One of the cute stories I have is we would do executive evaluations. I’d never done an executive evaluation. I mean what did I know about that? But he had done many. So, we would, as a team, do an executive evaluation with the top intervarsity staff and then he’d brag on me afterwards. He’d say “Yeah, yeah. I ask a question and they answer it. She asked a question totally off the wall. Next thing I got a guy sitting there all teared up.” If anything about that story, is he couldn’t read his own handwriting, but I could.
David: It’s funny.
Karen: Yeah, terrible handwriting. So that’s a picture of mentoring. That’s a picture of speaking words into someone’s life, saying, “You are much more capable than you even know. You’re really good at this.” These are words of encouragement. And that’s what we’re asking people to do today.
David: Thank the Lord for such people. You know, they come into our lives. It’s absolutely stunning. Let’s put it into a sentence. What is it we’re talking about, okay?
Karen: Well, what we’re saying is this. Many of us need to practice the unique skill of encouraging others to be more than they themselves thought possible.
David: Okay, I’m going to say it again. Many of us need to practice the unique skill of encouraging others to be more than they thought possible. I thought, is there anywhere in scripture where I can find out where this is being taught? And I didn’t find where it’s being taught as much as where it’s being modeled. This is from the book of Acts. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas. And then it’s in parentheses, which means son of encouragement. So, it was kind of a nickname. So, Joseph, they didn’t call him Joseph, they called him Barnabas, which means the guy who comes and encourages us.
Karen: It’s an extraordinary moniker, isn’t it?
David: Yeah, it really is. And the scriptures show how he did this. In Acts Chapter 11, it talks about the gospel spreading because of the persecution in Jerusalem and up in areas like Antioch. So, when the news of what was happening in Antioch came to Jerusalem, they sent Barnabas there to find out what was going on. And when he arrived, he saw the evidence of the grace of God. And he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. So, he’s keeping true to his nickname. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and great numbers of people were brought to the Lord. Then this next verse. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul. And when he found him, he brought him to Antioch, which is where they were. So, Barnabas is the encourager, and he sees this new convert.
Karen: New and gifted convert, but someone’s perhaps a little unfinished, I’m guessing, or a little raw in certain areas.
David: And he takes him for a period of time. I would say, mentors him or encourages him to be all that God has put in his heart to be, which is a very important thing. And then there’s famine down in Jerusalem. So, in Antioch, they took a special offering, and they sent the offering with Barnabas and Saul to Jerusalem. And then lo and behold, later on, when God says, I have picked certain people for a special ministry, they have set aside Barnabas and Paul. And they go on the first missionary journey.
Karen: Oh, that’s wonderful.
David: Now, there’s a breach between them that comes. Mark, who is a relative of Barnabas, had left them, deserted the first thing.
Karen: He was a young man, informed, I’m thinking. Yeah.
David: And became quite a person, one of the authors of the four gospels.
David: Barnabas says, “Let’s take Mark, let’s give him another go at it.”
Karen: Paul’s not going to have any of that. I can see the distinction between the two personalities, right, in that incident.
David: So, they break up.
Karen: So, Barnabas, the encourager, sees capabilities and gifts from this young man who’s disappointed them, and he chooses to go along in a mentoring, elder-adult relationship with him.
David: Yeah, and Barnabas and Mark go to Cyprus, and Paul takes a new partner, Silas, and then he goes on with his mission. But here is this Barnabas guy who has this incredible ministry of encouragement to others. Helps them to be more than they would want them to be.
Karen: And I think those people do see those realities in folk who don’t see those gifts in themselves. I mean, they have a gift, isn’t it? That’s what the gift of encouragement is. It’s not just saying nice things. It’s saying this person has possibilities.
David: It’s going the extra mile, so many different ways. They’re unusual people. Some people are just amazingly skilled at this. I’m thinking, Karen in your early days of another individual, Marlene. Yes. Marlene, she was huge. She was huge in terms of you becoming the writer.
Karen: Yeah, Marlene attended our church plant in Chicago. She wasn’t married at the time, but she worked for a curriculum house. And she just identified my gifts and gave me all kinds of writing assignments. Now, we were a young couple who planted a church, and sometimes we had to wait for two weeks for our paychecks. And we were not overpaid by any stretch of the imagination. We needed that extra money. And had four kids. We had taken people into our home to live with us. So, I basically will confess that I did the work for the money. But the assignments she gave me, because she could see in me the capability of doing creative writing, were just, they were adorable. They were for high schoolers. I just found my file with all of the things I had written for her. And they were wonderful, wonderful creative assignments. So, I was able to use my imaginative capabilities, which I probably wouldn’t have found another place to use. In a way that was extraordinarily satisfactory to me as a creative person. I also got paid for it. She professionalized my capability. I’m not sure I would have thought about myself as a writer.
David: She talked to us, Karen in another area. She said, “We’d like to do a video series.”
Karen: Oh, that’s right.
David: Remember that?
Karen: Right. What makes a Christian family Christian? Yeah. Wasn’t that what it was?
David: It was the first thing we ever did in video. I remember I never thought I would do that because I thought I’m not a movie star.
Karen: Well, you’re handsome as far as I’m concerned and always have been. But in your own eyes, right?
David: Thank you. Say that again.
Karen: After we’re done.
David: To do a series and bring camera people in. I remember talking when someone said, you know, I’m very self-conscious. I should lose weight. Marlene wasn’t deterred by anything. She just said, “I got it all set. The company’s going to do it.”
Karen: And then “You just have to take instructions. Yeah. You’re perfectly capable of doing this. You speak all the time. You’re a wonderful communicator. You know, don’t worry about the technology, but we’ll take care of that.”
David: That was the feeling of this view. We will get you there.
Karen: Yes, right. And they did. They did. It was a nice little series. David, there’s one verse I found. I have a book that I’ve done, Medicine for Mouth Disease. And I took all the verses out from Proverbs and made a 30-day meditation in the end. But there’s this prayer that I wrote for chapter 27 of the book of Proverbs. Lord, help me to hear what people say and to say what they need to hear.
David: That’s nice.
Karen: We can think of that as corrective. You know, say that you need to shape up here. But I think it’s much more inclined to speak those words to life, speak the words of life, identify a giftedness in someone who is not seeing their capability themselves. Say, “You really would be good at this. You could be much more than you know.”
David: Have you ever considered the following?
Karen: I think you could develop this gift. You know, I see a latent gift. Now that’s just extraordinary as far as its impact on people. Even when they say, “Oh no, I don’t think.” They’ll squirm around and deny it. But they’ll think about it because those words have such extraordinary power.
David: So, we are asking people to consider a gift that they really haven’t thought about that much before. And I’m going to be doing this. We have one donor who has supported us for decades. And she decided she would write a book. That’s an intimidating thing. And I encouraged her in it. And when she wrote the book, she sent me a copy and I said, “You’re better than you think.”
David: Guess what? She’s written two more books since then. Now, see, she has self-published.
Karen: There’s no shame in that at all these days.
David: But Karen, they’re good. And when this third book was sent to me, and I’m two thirds of the way through the book, it’s more testimony of lessons she has learned in the course of her life. I thought to myself, I’m so glad that I said to her, “Go ahead and do this.” You’re doing fine.” I know everyone is not going to be able to do this, but some people are in a position where I would like them to say, “Okay, who are you going to reveal to me through your Spirit, Lord”? A gift that I can give them, which is a verbal affirmation. But I’m going to at least allow myself to be aware that my words could be very important to someone. I can play a part in lives that will continue on beyond my life, and I’m going to say, “Lord, kind of guide me in this and help me to be sensitive, help me to be a Barnabas and to encourage them for the sake of the kingdom and also for the sake of the great satisfaction he gives me to be able to play such a significant part in someone’s life, help me to say the words, not to push them, just to kind of plant those seeds in people. To kind of have that sense of the Holy Spirit saying to me, ‘Hey, you’re like Barnabas. Good for you’.”
Karen: Many of us need to practice the unique skill of encouraging others to be more than what they thought possible.
Outgo: You’ve been listening to the Before We Go podcast. And if you would like to write to us, please send us an email at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s all lower-case letters: email@example.com. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please remember to rate, review, and share on whatever platform you listen. This podcast is copyright 2023 by Mainstay Ministries, Post Office Box 30, Wheaton, Illinois 60187.
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