"...preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction." 2 Timothy 4:2
Exhort – When you read this word, “exhort,” what comes to mind? Do you have images of a coach on the sidelines, pushing his players on with animated gestures? Do you think of the crowd along the road, cheering on the marathon runner? Do you think of the general, imploring his troops to push over the ridge? Our word, exhort, usually comes with plenty of emotionally charged pictures. It’s a cheerleading kind of word. Even when it is done quietly, we still think of “pat on the back” kind of actions. But the Greek is far richer.
Parakaleo is made up of two words, para (along side) and kaleo (to call). This word covers the range of aid, help, assist, encourage, comfort and beseech. In its paradigm use, it is the root behind one name for the Holy Spirit, the Paraklete, the Helper, the Comforter. For God, parakaleo is a very big deal. It is precisely what Jesus did when He responded to the call for redemption and restoration. If the leader of the flock is going to fill this criterion, it will usually be costly, but it will always be exactly what we need at precisely the right time and place. Parakaleo is divine, just-in-time delivery.
The Christian leader of the flock is not the one with the uninterruptible schedule. She is not the one who just doesn’t have time for you right now. She is the one who knows what it means to deliver the right word, the comforting touch and the encouraging, tangible assistance when it is needed. Exhortation is not always vocal remonstration or emotional pleas. Exhortation is aid in an emergency, consolation in sorrow, assistance when required and supplications when necessary.
I know what you’re thinking. “Good leaders all do this. So, what makes the Christian leader any different?” The answer is found by looking at Jesus. Here’s a clue. The Christian leader is usually fulfilling the characteristic of parakaleo under the radar. That means this kind of leader doesn’t look for any credit. In fact, if you want the best story of parakaleo in action, read the story of Jarius’ daughter. Jesus heals her after a major interruption, and then slips out the back door before anyone can start the media frenzy. A Christian leader knows that none of the credit for all these virtuous acts falls on him. It belongs to God alone.