I love my church community. In the sermon on Sunday the pastor talked about how we are diverse. There are different generations. Some people have been at the church since its foundation and others like me are new comers. Our backgrounds different, but together we are one. As a church our building is being renovated and so are we. We are learning what it is to do life together, be welcoming to our community, be a part of our community and become a neighbourhood church.
Recently I experienced doing life together first hand after surgery. I was blessed with more than the provision of meals, offers of transport and house cleaning. I was supported in prayers and people made time to check in on us and see how we were travelling as a family.
In my working life I teach pastoral care students and aim to grow their understanding of pastoral care from the image of ‘tea and sympathy’ and reactive care which is necessary in times of crisis, to a proactive approach using asset based community development.1 My church is taking this journey.
So how do we do this?
You may be expecting a list of actions you can take, but it begins with your understanding and relationship with Jesus. Dallas Willard says in a devotion called ‘Doing as Jesus does,’ ‘[Jesus] calls us to impart himself to us. He does not call us to what he did, but to be as he was, permeated with love. Then the doing of what he did and said becomes the natural expression of who we are in him’. 2
We don’t love others to earn God’s favour or his love. Loving others is our ‘response to his unconditional, unstoppable love.’ 3
For a church it begins with understanding God’s work.
‘Throughout the scope of Scripture we see the work of God is always swayed towards those most disempowered, voiceless and marginalised by society (eg. Deuteronomy 15:11, Psalm 34:18) and never is this more clear than the life of Jesus (eg. Matthew 5:42, Luke 4:17‐ 21). Jesus himself was vilified for spending time among those least appreciated and most damaged by society (the blind, the leper, the sick, outcast and the poor) and it is therefore not surprising that since the first recorded instances of the Christian Church (Acts 4:34) Christians have followed their King’s footsteps into places of brokenness (1 John 3:16 ‐ 18).’4
With your understanding in place then think about what would loving others look like in your community?
Did you think about practical outworking of love to the vulnerable in your community? Did you think about the welcome and acceptance of not only your church but what you individually provide, especially towards people who are different from you?
Every church and community is different – in needs and in strengths, so understanding and mapping these is the first step to loving action in your community. If you want some practical examples check out the resource list.
For me it is the foundation of His Heart Ministry Training. The name His Heart Ministry Training reflects God’s concern, compassion and care for people, especially those having a tough time, and his desire to see people’s lives healed, whole and hope filled. It exists to equip organisations and people in the promotion of hope, healing and wholeness. It exists for churches to be equipped to show God’s love in both word and deed, and so journey alongside others in the messiness of life.
Putting legs on it
Christine Caine, founder of A21, an organisation that is working towards the end of human trafficking says, ‘God has an external purpose for the whole body of Christ and a divinely chosen part for every single believer. He has uniquely designed and selected each and every believer to fulfil his or her purpose’ 5p31
Do you need to look at the resources to challenge your view on what loving others looks like and grow your understanding?
What can you do as an individual to be equipped in showing love to others?
How can your church progress in loving others? What does it know about the needs and strengths of the church and local community?
- Van Loon, A (2014) Pastoral Health and Care Ministry http://www.baptistcaresa.org.au/services/health-wellbeing-ageing/health-care-ministry
- Dallas Willard Daily Devotional: Doing as Jesus did, excerpted from ‘the Divine Conspiracy’.
- Caine, C (2014) Unstoppable, Zondervan, U.S.A, p122
- Hubbard, J, The Church and Community Development, Baptist Care, South Australia http://www.baptistcaresa.org.au/upload/The-Church-and-Community-Development.pdf accessed 11/1/17
- Caine, C (2014) Unstoppable, Zondervan, U.S.A, p31
Photo credit Filip Gielda unsplash.com