Tuesday, September 26 2023 - 3:31 AM

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Pacific Southwest

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The Essence of Scripture

The more we experience 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?

Jesus said the essence of everything taught in scripture (the Law and the Prophets) is that we treat others as we would like to be treated (Matthew 7:12). This is the bottom line of scripture. The Gospel is that through Jesus God treats us better than we deserve! In turn, we are to do the same with each other. What if your church put its primary focus on the essence of what scripture teaches?

We are looking for churches within the Pacific Union Conference and beyond who are willing to become laboratories of compassion—meaning they are ready to go nuclear with love, and are ready to put this statement to the 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

We do not mean for this 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 our communities.

Going Nuclear with Compassion

What does it mean to go nuclear with compassion? It is an intentional effort to make our churches more sticky with compassion. We say that a website is “sticky” when visitors linger there to take advantage of all its good content. A sticky church is one that focuses on loving people without strings attached and helps them experience God’s grace through positive interaction.

Suggestions for Nurturing Compassion the the Church

To promote intentionality, we encourage churches to develop a comprehensive plan to nurture compassion within their church life. If you’re not sure where to start, the following suggestions may help.

* 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, a Sabbath morning presentation). Explain the significance of doing this. This is about making sure your church primarily focuses on loving and meeting the needs of people, as opposed to simply being an information resource (where doctrines and information take precedence over people and relationships). It is about intentionally putting your focus on what it means to love and live with other people. Doctrines are important (they serve as the foundation of your entity). But our interaction with fellow members and guests represents the flesh and blood of the gospel, which is heavily relational. John said we’ll be known as Jesus followers by our love for each other (John 13:35).

* 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 whenever you can.

* 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.

* At the end of the 24 month period, be willing to share your experience via video, article format, or a live presentation with other pastors or ministry leaders. Let others know how your emphasis on compassion has affected your church and community.

It is important that whatever you do should fit the personality and needs of your church family and community. If you’ve developed a plan and would be willing to share it with others, please let us know.

Our Changing World

Increasingly our world has becoming divided along political, racial, religious and ethnic lines. Divisive talk radio and TV has poisoned our culture. This is to the point that it’s difficult to have a meaningful conversation with people without the discussion ending in irritation and heated exchanges. Politicians stoke the “flames” by making inflammatory statements and challenging traditional values. Civility is slipping away.

What if your church had the reputation of being the one place in your community where people could go to find acceptance and compassion—regardless of one’s background or beliefs? Yes, with intentionality it is possible to treat people with grace even though they may not act or think like we do.

Adventists know a lot about truth, and are people of the book (the Bible). But Jesus said his people are to be known by their love! If there was ever a time when this needed to be true, it is now!

Rich DuBose is director of Pacific Union Conference Church Support Services.

If you enjoyed this, you may also enjoy Is Your Church Kind? 

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About Rich DuBose

Rich DuBose

writes from Northern California

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