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The more we experience and celebrate God’s grace and recognize what he has done for us, the more compassionate we will be toward others. Speaking of the woman who “recklessly” anointed his feet with expensive perfume, Jesus said, “She has loved much because she was forgiven much.” How many of us understand that we have been forgiven much?
We are looking for Seventh-day Adventist churches within the Pacific Union Conference who are willing to become laboratories of compassion for a period of 24 months or more–meaning that they are ready to go nuclear with compassion and put this statement to a test:
“If we would humble ourselves before God, and be kind and courteous and tender-hearted and pitiful, there would be one hundred conversions to the truth where now there is only one.” –Testimonies to the Church, vol. 9 p. 189
This is not meant to be a “cute” program or some kind of staged operation. We are not encouraging churches to participate simply to get results, although Ellen White said there will be a marked increase in conversions when we treat people well. This is about making our churches places of nurture, and about truly being salt and light within the communities where we live.
Going Nuclear with Compassion
What does it mean to go nuclear with compassion? SpiritWERKS is the name of this initiative whereby we invite the Holy Spirit to empower us to love as Jesus loved! It is an intentional effort to make our churches sticky with compassion. We say that a website is “sticky” when visitors to the site linger there to take advantage of all its good content. A sticky church is one that is passionately focused on loving people without strings, and helping them to experience God’s grace through positive and caring interaction.
Churches who wish to participate are asked to develop a comprehensive plan to promote compassion within their church families as a means nurutre and community outreach. If you don’t have a plan, the following suggestions may help you get started.
* Journey with us as we seek to understand the importance of compassion in our lives and in the lives of our churches!
* Present the concept to your board. Talk about it during a scheduled church board meeting and vote to make compassion a top priority.
* Share the church board vote with your church family (email, letter, Sabbath morning presentation). Explain the significance of doing this. This is about moving your church away from an info-centric focus (where doctrines and information take precedence over people and relationships), and putting more of your focus on what it means to love and live with other people. Doctrines are still important (they serve as the skeleton of the body), but our interaction with fellow church members and visitors represents the flesh and blood of the body, which is where the nurturing takes place.
* Commit to incorporating the concepts of The Narrow Gate study material (or something similar) into one or more of the following venues – Elder’s meetings, small groups, mid-week service, sermon’s, etc.
* Develop ways to model compassion and kindness within your church family and community. Be willing to share what you’re doing with the other churches.
* Periodically feature stories about forgiveness and compassion in your worship services. Keep a list of these and share them with the other churches.
* Talk about it with your members. Within the 24 month period be willing to spend significant amounts of time talking and praying about God’s grace, particularly as it pertains to how we should treat people. Be willing to share what you’re doing with the other churches.
* At the end of the 24 month period, be willing to share your experience via a video, article format, or a live presentation with the Pacific Union Conference. We may want to feature your church in a video.
It is important that whatever you do, it should be adapted to fit the personality and needs of your church family and surrounding community. If you have developed a plan and would be willing to share it with us so other leaders can discover what you’re doing, it will be greatly appreciated.
Our Changing World
Our world is becoming increasingly divided along political, racial and ethnic lines. Talk radio and hate TV have poisoned our culture to the point that it’s difficult to have a meaningful conversation with people without the discussion ending in irritation, and sometimes even heated exchanges. Politicians stoke the “flames” by making inflammatory statements and challenging traditional values. Civility seems to be slipping away.
What if your church had the reputation of being the one place people could go in their community to find acceptance and compassion–regardless of their background or beliefs? Yes, it is possible to treat people with grace even though they may not act or think like we do.
We know a lot about “truth,” but we need to be known by our love!
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