Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Encouragement Rebounds


(left to right) Bill Spencer, Wilma Mathis, Aida Spencer, and Cindy Westfall at CBE conference, Atlanta, GA, August 6, 2022; picture by Virginia Knowles

The Apostle Paul teaches the Corinthians that “love is not envious or boastful or arrogant,” but it looks out for the benefit of others (1 Corinthians 13:4; Philippians 2:4).

I just came back from the 2022 international Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Bill and I enjoy attending CBE conferences because they are geared to support in a mutual manner the accomplishments of everyone who attends. Bill was enthusiastic about the doctoral dissertation of his teaching associate, Rev. Dr. Wilma Faye Mathis, and thought it would be helpful to everyone to learn how transformational journaling could raise women’s self-esteem.[1] As well, I wanted to attend to encourage and promote knowledge of Bill’s forthcoming masterpiece, Three in One: Analogies for the Trinity. So, he recommended the three of us do a joint workshop on “Using Biblical Female Imagery to Bolster Self-Esteem in Women.”[2] Bill wanted me to participate in the workshop and he found a way that I could contribute to our topic by my summarizing what we learn from all the feminine images used in the Bible to describe God.[3]  

I came to honor others. To my surprise and delight I was honored. Encouragement results in encouragement. It spreads!

When we came to check out the CBE Bookstore at the conference, we were encouraged by all the books featured in the Bookstore written and co-edited by Bill and me and our colleagues in the House of Prisca and Aquila series.  My book on Beyond the Curse: Women Called to Ministry (now in print for almost 40 years) even sold out! I never expected that! Some participants shared with me that they were using the Spanish translation of Beyond the Curse, Más allá de la maldición: Mujeres llamadas al ministerio (2011), in their ministries. For years I had not been able to find a Spanish publisher for Beyond the Curse, so I gathered a Spanish speaking team of translators to work with me on it. Was that effort worthwhile? Yes! Now I still know it was. When we attended the Saturday evening Awards Ceremony dinner, I had been hoping that my former student and teaching assistant and now professor, acting vice president of Academic Affairs, and director of the Women’s Institute at William Carey International University receive a Lifetime Achievement Award. And, sure enough, she did! Rev. Dr. Grace May has dedicated her life to promoting women in leadership. But, to my surprise, in her acceptance speech, she thanked Bill and me as her mentors. We were so thankful for her appreciation. Being now “retired” and looking back at our years of service, we found her comments affirming.

I had come to honor others, and, in turn, I was honored by others! Honoring and rejoicing with others has a multiplication effect. If I encourage you, in due time, you may encourage me.

If Grace’s appreciation was not enough, at our closing keynote sermon, Rev. Michele Williams, former dean at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, spoke on “Between Sisters: Using Our Collective Courage to Live Out Galatians 3:28.” Again, to my extreme surprise, she too thanked me at the start of her talk for my writings and for introducing her to CBE. I had totally forgotten I had ever mentioned CBE to her! And, now she was a keynote speaker who was very effective and moving. She preached on Zelophehad’s daughters.

Paul told the Corinthians (and us as well) “If one member is honored (or glorified), all the members rejoice together (or rejoice with them)” (1 Cor 12:26).

We need never worry about our own honor. If we encourage others and want them honored, eventually that honor may rebound back to us. We should have no reason to envy others, because our time will come. Moreover, if we as the church are one body, their honor is our honor. Christ’s body is built on a genuine love that is not envious or boastful or arrogant (1 Cor. 13:4). Yes, we should look out for ourselves but, as well, for the other members of the same body (Phil 2:4). Mutual honoring and rejoicing never ends but it multiplies over and over again. 


[1] Her dissertation will be published in the House of Prisca and Aquila series as Jesus among the Homeless.

[2] The workshop will eventually be available at cbeinternational.org. via Soundcloud and YouTube.

[3] I developed ch. 5 of Beyond the Curse: Women Called to Ministry (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985).