The church needs some encouragement right now. After a heavy year and a half full of COVID-19, riots, racial injustice, and political turmoil, Christians are hungry to be refreshed.
Christian comedian and speaker Dennis Swanberg says that’s where he comes in.
Known as “America’s Minister of Encouragement,” Swanberg travels around the country to speak at churches, conferences, fundraisers, and more. At each event, his jokes get people belly-laughing and his spiritual messages leave them inspired.
“My goal is to refresh the body of Christ after what we’ve been through this last year,” he says. “We need Christ, we need community, and we need some comedy. The Bible says a merry heart doeth good like medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones (see Proverbs 17:22).”
Swanberg draws inspiration from Onesiphorus in 2 Timothy 1. While in prison, Paul praised Onesiphorus for visiting and refreshing him when so many others had abandoned him.
“May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me—may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus” (2 Timothy 1:16-18, ESV).
“I can't explain God's economy, His miraculous economy, but the bottom line is if we're refreshers, He will show mercy to our families and to the family of faith,” Swanberg says.
How Christians Can Refresh Each Other
While Swanberg loves to refresh others with his comedy routines, not everyone has the “spiritual gift of joke-telling.” (And can you name anything more uncomfortable than a joke that doesn’t land?)
Thankfully, you don’t have to be a comedian to refresh the hearts of the saints. Each one of us can encourage other believers—all it takes is a little effort and a desire to serve.
If you’re looking for practical ways to build up your brothers and sisters in the faith, Swanberg offers five helpful ideas:
1. Reach out with a note or a call.
“We shouldn’t underestimate the power of a note, or of a text, the power of an email, the power of a phone call,” Swanberg says.
He recalls one note that brought his wife to tears. While dining on a cruise, the Swanbergs ran into Kay Arthur of Precept Ministries. Swanberg’s wife reached into her Bible, pulled out a letter, and handed it to Kay.
“Kay started crying. My wife started crying,” Swanberg says. “They're just bawling and hugging, and I’m thinking, ‘What in the world?’”
It turns out that Kay had written that letter for Swanberg’s wife years earlier—and it was a regular encouragement each time Mrs. Swanberg read it.
2. Go visit someone.
Onesiphorus refreshed Paul by traveling to visit him. It wasn’t convenient and it likely wasn’t easy, but he went out of his way to visit Paul when he was in distress.
Perhaps you know someone in prison you could visit. But if not, you likely know someone who is stuck at home or sick in the hospital.
COVID-19 restrictions have certainly made it harder to visit people. But as the pandemic dies down and restrictions lift, visiting can become an especially helpful way to refresh someone, especially if they’ve been quarantined a long time.
3. Simply be there for someone.
There’s a lot of power in simply showing up, Swanberg says. By showing up at church, a birthday party, or a funeral, we communicate that we care. Sometimes our presence alone is enough to lift someone’s spirits.
“We live in a busy world. We can't do everything,” Swanberg says. “But if you can, if you have opportunity, show up.”
4. Pray for someone.
Another way we can show up for someone is by praying for them faithfully.
“We underestimate the power of prayer, especially intercessory prayer,” Swanberg says.
Numerous times throughout the New Testament, Paul told the churches he was praying for them and often requested their prayers as well. When you say you’ll pray for someone, be faithful to follow through and even follow up with them later.
Use the gifts and talents God gave you.
“Every believer has a spiritual gift,” Swanberg says. “And when they use that spiritual gift, it refreshes the body of Christ.”
One person’s gift may look different than another person’s, and that’s okay. We’re each called to refresh the hearts of the saints with the unique giftings God has given us.
For Swanberg, one of those gifts is his ability to make people laugh, and he plans to keep using it to refresh others for as long as he can.
In fact, he’s putting that gift to work at the upcoming 40 Days & Nights of Gospel Music event at the Ark Encounter! He’s looking forward to being one of the many speakers and preachers who will take the stage alongside some of the nation’s most popular Southern Gospel performers.