The expression of Godâ€™s heart will connect you with your community
A destitute woman. A sick, desperate mother. A prodigal son. These were the kinds of people on whose behalf Jesus exercised continual compassion in every synagogue and village of Israel. Jesus is calling His followers to live this same compassion, bringing wholeness to every community in the world.
The biblical word compassion encompasses more than emotion. The meaning conveys motivation that cannot rest until the pain is relieved. This is undoubtedly what drove Jesus to restore the Samaritan woman when His body was crying out for rest. This is what motivated Him to fight a treacherous storm to deliver a severely demon-oppressed man.
Ask yourself and your best leaders, How much compassion is our church releasing? Then ask God for a plan that will flood more life-giving compassion into your community.
Several years ago I was reading Acts 3-4 and became deeply impressed that our church needed to become more compassionate. I read about when Peter and John released healing into the lame man who had begged at the temple gate his entire life. His miraculous healing resulted in the community being filled with joy and the church growing to five times its former size.
The Holy Spirit helped me see that our church could have more favor communitywide and succeed more in His mission if we were more compassionate. At the time, we saw ourselves more as a teaching center where the Holy Spirit occasionally performed miracles. Certainly that view is both biblical and essential; but we discovered that we were called as well to heal people by expressing a greater degree of Jesusâ€™ compassion.
Everyone got excited as our leaders shared our newfound calling. Ideas empowered us to be more compassionate without spending extra time or money. We saw how we could serve visitors with more excellence; minister to the next generation with more purpose; creatively design services to communicate how God heals; and build a reputation among suffering people so theyâ€™d realize our church existed for them, not just for us.
John Wesley called this the restoration of â€śapostolic confidenceâ€ťâ€”trust among people in who the church is and what we know about bringing healing to humanity. He believed this confidence is the beginning of an effective movement for God.
Paul agreed. He wrote in 1 Corinthians 13 that he could speak with the tongues of men and angelsâ€”but without love be merely an irritation; that he could possess unfathomable wisdom and faith that moved mountainsâ€”but without love be nothing; that he could give all he possessed to the poor and surrender his body to the flamesâ€”but without love gain nothing.
Love is the bottom line. People will respond to what we do as imitators of Christ if theyâ€™re inspired by why we do it. For example, my friends and I started a backpack outreach so kids had whatever they needed for school. Within two years our community gave all the required resources, unsolicited; the next year retailers offered supplies for the entire school year. A few years ago, the Toys for Tots program in our town was shutting down because of a lack of volunteers. Godâ€™s compassion moved us to provide a Christmas present to every child living under the poverty level. Last year our community gave more than $100,000, and 2,000 needy children received gifts.
As a church, we have learned that Jesusâ€™ compassion not only multiplies the favor we have with our community, but it also motivates people to come into our fellowship and experience His healing presence.
Jim Graff is the senior pastor of Faith Family Church in Victoria, Texas, and founder of the Significant Church Network (significantchurch.com).