By Jose Cortes, Jr.
I envision the day when our church will be known for our Compassion and Love for humanity rather than for the things we oppose. The day when this happens we will be in great historic company, we’ll be in the company of Jesus. Jesus was known for loving people of all walks of life and backgrounds, as He walked this earth. Once, while talking to His disciples Jesus said: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). This is not just a call for church unity among believers, this pronouncement extends His love way beyond that, and explains why people felt drawn to Him. People gravitated towards Jesus because they felt safe and loved in His presence.
I have a deep conviction that a Conspiracy of Compassion is perhaps one of the biggest needs of the Adventist Church in North America.
For the conspiracy to become a reality, it takes all of us, collaborating together, in all of our churches, institutions, and organizations, consistently, as if we had all planned to do it together, all at the same time. Can you imagine what would happen if Adventism in North America became a synonym of Compassion? What if, as people walked and drove by our churches they would see open doors and our beautiful visible signs outlining our services to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the community? What if people could see us, Adventists, outside of our church buildings on a regular basis doing good, like Jesus did?
There are a few concepts to keep in mind as your church becomes the Eyes, Heart, Hands, and Feet of Jesus in your community. Take a look:
Relevance: After last month’s blog “Conspiracy in North America” someone asked, what is your definition of Relevance? Relevance is being there when you are needed. A church that is there for its members and its community when they are in need is a relevant church.
- When there is a storm in your area, how can your church be relevant?
- When a house burns down on your street, how can your church be relevant?
- When there is a death in a community family (see Obituary Section in Newspaper), how can your church be relevant?
- When there is hunger in your community, how can your church be relevant?
- When civil unrest is taking place in your town, how can your church be relevant?
- When obesity is prevalent in the neighborhood, how can your church be relevant?
- When there is a Marathon, a Street Market, a Parade happening in your city, how can your church be relevant?
- When there are thousands playing basketball, soccer, and softball across city parks and playgrounds, how can your church be relevant?
- When there is a need for new leadership in your city or state, how can your church be relevant? Could a church member run for office and help make a change?
- When thousands of people walk right pass your church building on a regular basis, how can your church be relevant to them?
Consistency: Blessing the community with acts of love and compassion once in a while is not enough. Just last Saturday, as I was talking to John, a homeless man, in downtown Troy, New York, he told me: “People don’t trust some churches because they come out and help us and then disappear and we don’t hear from them again…” Does this sound familiar? A one time Compassion event although it may help, is not enough. People will not trust someone they only see once in a while. Churches that care keep coming back, they stick with it, they just don’t come once a year right before the public evangelistic meetings begin, people see right through that. It is time that our Adventist Churches become a permanent and active fixture in the public spaces of our communities, where they are needed. Compassion was not an event in the life of Jesus, it was a lifestyle. The same applies to His church.
Identity: It is vital that people know who we are, as we minister to them in our communities. If they don’t know who we are, how will they ever come back to us when they have a need? How will they contact us when they need a prayer or feel the Holy Spirit leading them to worship, or to inquire more about spiritual things? When ministering, keep in mind to have a card, which includes your Church name, address, telephone #, and e-mail, this way people know whom to contact when they have a physical or spiritual need in the future.
Objective: People will ask why are you doing this? Many will be suspicious that you are doing this because there is an ulterior motive. It must be clear that our ultimate desire is the salvation of every individual that we come in contact with and making them disciples so they can join us in sharing God’s love in this dying world. However, we must learn from Jesus who on a regular basis showed His love in practical ways with no strings attached. Jesus did not enlist everyone He fed, healed, and blessed, as a disciple or a member of his early church plant, but He fed, healed, and blessed them anyway. When people ask why are you doing this? We must be able to tell them “We are showing God’s love in practical ways…” and be willing to continue to be Jesus to them. Just like Jesus, we will not baptize all, but at least we will take their hunger away and give them hope.
Partnership: As a Church, we must remember that we are not an island. There are governmental, private, and faith based organizations and institutions which are already making a difference in the community. They have access to plenty of resources and at times are lacking the most important resource, which is not funding, but people. Partnering with the entities can be a blessing for the community, for the organization, and for our church. Do not be afraid to partner, you do not have to reinvent the wheel, our Church loses nothing when we partner with others to help. There are also wealthy individuals and families who are looking for people to partner with, they may not want to come to your church, but they want to invest some of their money benefitting people and communities. The “poverty" of the wealthy is the need to use their expertise and finances in the improving of lives and communities. They may be willing to partner with your church in an after school mentoring program, food distribution, health clinics, counseling clinics, single mothers outreach, community fitness programs, home makeovers, and others. And this may be the only way for them to ever get to know Jesus and our church.
Let’s join together in the Conspiracy of Compassion across North America!
Pastor Jose Cortes Jr., is an Associate Ministerial Director and Leads Evangelism for the Adventist Church in North America.