Posts Tagged love
We’re sharing some ideas on how everybody can make a difference to guests and non-Christians that join us on Sundays. For the context of our discussion, check out the recent posts, The Sermon Starts in The Parking Lot, The Sunday Mind-Shift, Show Up Early, and Take a Genuine Interest.
Over a year ago, I had an “exit interview” with a man who was leaving our church. He was a single man in his 40s and had been going through a tough time. After years away from church, God used the death of his mom, unemployment and a couple of other trials to bring him back. Our church was one of the first he visited.
I distinctly remember him saying was something like this:
“On my first Sunday I spent about 15 minutes pouring out my heart to somebody that I just met. It probably wasn’t the wisest thing on my part, but I was emotional and things were tough. At the end of the conversation, the guy I was talking to said something like, ‘Well, here’s my number, let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.’ I thought, Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you? Seriously? I just poured out my heart and told you all my problems. Clearly there is something you could do for me. It felt like I just got blown off.”
This is admittedly a tough situation. I’m sure many of us would not be exactly sure what to do if we had a total stranger spilling his or her guts on us. But there’s an important lesson here. We should come to church ready to do ministry.
The Sunday gathering is not merely a place to be ministered to, but a place to get in the game and participate. If we can’t do it on Sunday when we’re on our home turf, what chance do we have during the week out in the world?
In the end, this mostly comes down to mindset. And each of us needs to have a mindset ready to care for people, pray for people, and be the hands and feet of Jesus to them.
Are you ready?
We’re sharing some ideas on how everybody can make a difference to guests and non-Christians that join us on Sundays. For the context of our discussion, check out the recent posts, The Sermon Starts in The Parking Lot, The Sunday Mind-Shift, and Show Up Early.
Have you ever wondered how somebody like Bill Clinton–with his political polarization and personal immorality–can remain so enchanting to so many people? As you listen to those who have met him, one reason comes sharply into focus. They all say something like, “When you meet Bill Clinton, it feels like you’re the only person in the room.”
In other words, despite all his faults, Clinton takes a genuine interest in people. He’s not busy looking over their shoulder or glancing at his watch. He truly cares.
If a politician will do that, how much more should God’s people do that? Isn’t it simply the essence of Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself”?
If you want to make a real difference in somebody’s life, take a genuine interest in them. Ask them sincere questions. Listen rather than thinking of what to say next. And slow down.
I have to admit that this is personally tough for me — especially on Sundays when I’m trying to meet lots of new people, care for those in our church family, and think through the elements of my sermon and the service. It’s tough. But I’m trying.
I’d love it if we had 300 other people trying as well. I think the love of Jesus like that would turn our church upside down.
Want to make a difference for those who are guests on Sunday? Here’s a very simple way: Show up early.
As a pastor, I’m at our gathering location early every week. And I’ve noticed that, at least at our church, only 3 kinds of people show up early (at least 10 minutes before):
- Older people
- New people
Older people are just respectful and are basically not in a hurry, ex-cons have been subconsciously trained that if they don’t show up early they don’t eat, and new people are there because they didn’t want to show up late and get embarrassed.
When these guests arrive, wouldn’t it be great if there were a bunch of genuinely joyful people there, excited about the chance to be together and celebrate Jesus? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were loving, devoted Christ-followers ready to strike up a conversation or say hello?
If you were a guest, that’s what you’d want. And all it takes is showing up early.
I know, I know…it takes kids forever to get moving in the morning, especially when you want them to hurry. But they do it for school and you do it for work. Why? Because showing up early to those things is important to you. Shouldn’t the opportunity to love on guests to our church (people who are likely exploring the faith) be just as important?
There is low-hanging gospel fruit and ministry every week for those who will take it. So join me, your pastors and the band and come love on some new people!
For a context of this discussion, see The Sermon Starts in the Parking Lot.
Making a difference with the guests to our church is not hard. It takes surprisingly little effort. But, sadly, few Christians intentionally focus on this opportunity to love and serve our neighbors. When we invite our own friends and family, we do this naturally. But what about the other Sundays when other people have invited their friends?
Make a mind-shift.
Colin Marshall writes:
See church as a place where Christians go to work. Church is a gathering of God’s people to hear his word and respond in faith and obedience. In this gathering, we are in fellowship with each other, through the blood of Jesus, and, because of our fellowship, we seek to serve each other. We use our gifts and abilities to strengthen one another and build Christ’s Church— ‘edification’ is the word often used to describe what goes on in church. All believers are involved in building the church, not just clergy or preachers. The New Testament consistently teaches that in the growth of the body of Christ each part must do its work (see Eph 4; 1 Cor 12-14). Because of this, we aren’t to see ourselves merely as part of an organization called [Second Mile Church], but as servants of God’s people, eager to meet the needs of others even if it means sacrificing our own.
This will change your reasons for going to church. Make the shift from being the ‘helpee’ to the helper, the served to the servant. Church is where we seek spiritual food and encouragement in order to become more godly; but church is also where we go in order to feed other people and encourage them. In God’s mercy, we become more Christ-like in the process, as like him we deny ourselves for the sake of others.
Why do you think we do this naturally when we bring guests to church, but we forget it the other weeks?
Our mission to take the gospel to people and make disciples is definitely not limited to what we do on Sunday — it happens all the time, everywhere we go. But it should also be happening at the Sunday gathering. If we can’t do it well there, we’ll have a hard time doing it elsewhere. Everything we do when we gather is a chance to communicate the beauty of Christ.
Over the last few days, we’ve looked at the problem of fearing man and how this can change as we set our focus on fearing God instead. Can you imagine what would happen in your life if you could apply the gospel to this key area?
In his booklet, “Gospel Relationships,” Tim Chester describes two powerful things that take place when we start fearing God:
1. The fear of God sets us free to love people.
We are not free to love other people when we fear their rejection or crave their approval. We may speak of loving someone, but in reality we are using them to gain the affirmation that we crave. We may serve them, but in reality we are serving our need for affirmation. If they do not deliver that affirmation, then we respond with bitterness, depression or anger.
Consider a father who craves the respect of his children. When that respect is not forthcoming, he may discipline them out of anger or he may manipulate them through bribery. He is not serving their needs. He is motivated by his need for respect rather than selfless love for his children. As a result, his discipline may well be counter-productive. Imagine now that the fear of God relativises his desire for respect. The respect of his children is no longer determinative in the way he behaves towards them. As a result, he is free to discipline them in love according to their needs.
2. The fear of God sets us free to be ourselves.
When we fear other people, we act in whatever way we think will enable us to gain their approval or avoid their rejection. We are not free to behave as we want…We often fear other people because we fear exposure. I wear a mask to prevent people from discovering the real me. In God we have someone who knows us completely in all our need and sin. Yet still he accepts us and loves us. Confidence in the grace of God means we need not fear exposure and so we do not have to pretend. We can be ourselves.
Always speak respectfully of your spouse.
Relationships (including marriages) are built on trust. One of the key indicators of whether you can trust a person is how they speak of you when you’re not around.
Don’t you remember middle school? Your recall what it was like when a friend was blabbing on and on about somebody else and the thought occurred to you, “I wonder what he/she says when I’m not around?”
Whether it is at the gym, at coffee shops, or all other kinds of places I constantly hear people bagging on their spouse to somebody else. “He’s so disorganized.” “She’s a slob.” “Blah, blah, blah.”
At the moment that you’re ripping on your spouse to a friend for a cheap laugh or so that you can “vent,” you are communicating that your friend is more important to you than your spouse. You’re communicating that you are willing to throw the most important person in your life under the bus for your own selfish relief.
It dishonors your spouse and it dishonors Jesus, who commands husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husbands. Both commands are unconditional.
Love and respect demands that you speak well of your spouse, especially when he/she is not around.
Here is a remarkable story from Matthew Braselton, one of the Second Mile pastors. Stuff like this is why I love our church! Matthew writes:
Last night was one of the most difficult, yet most encouraging nights of my “career” as a pastor. I was called by Greg Scallon, who works at Gilbert Hospital around 5pm and asked if I could come lead an impromptu Prayer service at 8pm for a young lady who was tragically injured in a motorcycle accident the day before. When he called, she was on life-support, but had no brain activity. She was 19 yrs old, a pre-med student at U of A, and volunteered at Gilbert Hospital on the weekends. She was a beloved member of the staff family at the hospital, and many of her co-workers were grieving and hoping to meet together to pray for her.
Greg, who has a significant leadership role at the hospital, is know for his commitment to Christ, and the lady organizing the prayer time asked if he knew of anyone who could lead it.
When I got the news, I asked some folks for help in getting the word out to our church family (via The City, phones calls, text messages…). I was blown away by how God provided over the next few hours!
Many of you dropped whatever plans you had for the evening, showed up at 8pm in the cold, and stood outside to pray for and support around 60+ grieving people you didn’t even know. This sort of self-sacrifice and “running toward pain” is a dramatic embodiment of Jesus’ heart and mission and a stunning display of His love, grace, and compassion. The service went well, and many of you had a chance to pray gospel truth over a ripe harvest field of hurting lost folks searching for answers.
As I reflect on the events of last night, I am brought to tears as I consider the grace of God and the evidence of His Spirit working in the lives of people in His body. Allow me to thank God for a few things in relation to these events:
1. I thank God for men and women like Greg Scallon who faithfully live out their faith, day in and day out, in the secular work arena. He certainly is a light of hope in that place, and had (has) the blessed privilege of being used by God in a very difficult situation like this.
2. I thank God for changing the hearts of selfish sinners (like me) such that they would be moved with compassion by the suffering of strangers and press in to people’s pain in an effort of offer the hope and healing power of the gospel.
3. I thank God for a hope that is unshakable, imperishable, and undefiled. A glorious hope that stands as a beacon of light, security, and life in the midst of great sorrow and pain.
Since last night, the family removed the young lady from life support and she passed away.
Greg said the impact you all made on the staff at the hospital is incalculable. He’s had many people ask about our church, God, his faith… A relatively small sacrifice of your time seems to be creating a large impact for the kingdom.
Please continue to pray for all the folks touched by this tragedy. God is certainly at work in powerful ways, and it’s so cool to see people drawn to Him through this.
Thank you, Second Mile!
It’s funny to me that most people in Arizona are not from here and, therefore, could really benefit from getting to know their neighbors–but few really do. Most of us could really grow in our ability to know and love our neighbors. Good Magazine’s recent issue was all about neighborhoods and they had some great, practical ideas of how you can be engaged in a positive way in your neighborhood. Here are a few ideas they had:
- Meet your neighbors without seeming like a crazy person.
- Throw a block party.
- Share Your Yard (Or Get Your Neighbors to Share Theirs).
- Be a Good Regular.
What’s something you’ve done or could do to be a good neighbor?
This is something that, if really embraced by our church, would make our Sunday gatherings warmly and delightfully different than anything people might be used to experiencing at church.
Here are some of the best lines from the article:
“Church is a place where Christians go to work.”
“The shift was made from being the ‘helpee’ to the helper, the served to the servant. Church is where we seek spiritual food and encouragement in order to become more godly; but church is also where we go in order to feed other people and encourage them.”
“The preacher should not be the only one preparing for church.”
“We need to develop a nose for new people…The way we welcome and look after people when they visit our homes should be a model for the household of God.”
“It is your meeting, not the minister’s. It’s all about being observant and outward-looking.”
Is this something you think you could do? What obstacles do you think you’d face?
(Note: The PDF is an edited, condensed, and Americanized version of the original, which can be found here)