In this issue...
In Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 41, Ellen White states, “By visiting the people, talking, praying, sympathizing with them, you will win hearts.” Relationships are crucial for people to feel connected with the Lord and the fellowship of believers on this earth. Most people who have taken a break from church do so because of a crisis or a broken relationship, not doctrines!
The word “smile” provides a way to remember a simple formula for building relationships.
- S—speak to those you don’t know (especially on Sabbath) at church gatherings—everyone is a greeter! Use open-ended statements to affirm them and move the conversation forward. Example: “It’s so good to see you today.” Or, “I am blessed to worship with you today.” If someone asks why, a possible response might be, “I believe that Christians achieve a greater blessing if we follow Hebrews 10:25, ‘And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of His coming back again is drawing near.’ (NIV)”
- M—meet, mingle—The Bible tells us that we entertain angels without knowing it. Every person we meet wants to feel needed and connected (even when they don’t act that way!) and so many feel invisible.
- I—interact—Spend time together in non-threatening activity (outings, etc.). Visit people who haven’t been in church recently. When visiting an inactive or former member, listen—do not lecture. Encourage the person to share their story and focus on what they’re saying—not your own experiences. Effective listening is a skill that can be practiced.
- L—listen actively—Use open-ended questions to encourage the speaker to share their faith experience. For instance, ask “What was the church like when you joined?” Begin follow-up questions with “how” or “why” to encourage the speaker to expand on their comments and share more of their feelings/thoughts. Then ask creative questions based on information shared by the speaker.
- E—equal at the foot of the cross. The Bible tells that we ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Let’s help each other reconnect with the Lord and the fellowship of believers
A smile leads to relationships that will demonstrate to non-believers the transforming power of Jesus. In John 17, Jesus prays that the disciples will have the same relationship with each other that Jesus shares with God. It is through close and loving relationships that the world will know God sent Jesus.
1. Initiate a prayer focus on missing members
2. Gather / distribute information (names, resources, promotion)
3. Provide a training event 2-3 times a year (fall, winter, spring)
4. Coordinate RM ministries with other leaders of Personal Ministries, greeters, Sabbath School, etc.
5. Advocate for inactives at board meetings and church gatherings
6. Motivate a team to attend the annual NAD RM event with you
7. Ask for budget or fundraise to make this ministry viable
As the discussion about how to be compassionate Christians heated up, one participant commented, “I don’t wake up in the morning deciding to help people.”
Gratified that the trust level was high enough to allow that kind of statement, I also was taken aback. The speaker is a person whom I believe to be compassionate and caring.
As the conversation continued, I thought about discipleship. We’re told in Matthew 28:19, 20 to make disciples and “teach these new disciples to obey all the commands” that Jesus gave. We share the good news of the Gospel while the Holy Spirit moves a person to repentance of sins and acceptance of Jesus as Savior. Then we teach the commands of Jesus.
But as we mentor new Christians, do we share a vision that includes compassion? How do we define compassion as part of our Christian mission? Do we too narrowly express compassion in relationship to people who are suffering economically? What about those who are experiencing a spiritual deficit?
“My dear brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back again, you can be sure that the one who brings that person back will save that sinner from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.”James 5:19, 20 (NIV)
Powerful words! The ministry of reconciliation is life-changing, with implications for eternity.
`Think about the times in your life when you felt spiritually depleted. What made the difference? According to the personal testimonies shared during North American Division Reconnecting Ministries training events, people usually reconnect because someone cared enough to reach out to them. Someone noticed their signs of discouragement (including, but not limited to, attendance at church!) and took time to extend the hand of friendship in ways large and small.
A few thoughts on extending friendship in ways large and small:
- First, choose to care even if you and your fellow Christian don’t have much in common.
- Leave the judging to God—we teach, we love, but we refrain from measuring others according to our yardsticks.
- Listen with your heart, searching for the message behind the words.
- Cherish the people you encounter daily. Each one is a child of God. Get to know your siblings in Christ.
Rejoice in the unexpected. When we open our hearts and lives to the Lord, we will be amazed at the outcome.
More than six years ago, a family walked into a small Adventist church. Headed for divorce, the parents decided to return one more time to church, once a major part of their lives.
Exhausted emotionally and spiritually, they responded to the Lord’s invitation to those who are weary and heavy-laden. That day they found rest and rejuvenation as several people took the time to extend friendship in ways large and small, to be the hands, ears, and face of Jesus.
The people in that congregation are no different from thousands of other Adventists. Each Sabbath, they’re busy doing church, but they choose to move beyond their comfort zone in order to be church.
And the family they embraced is still together, actively sharing their faith and touching lives on God’s behalf.
Jesus commanded that we love one another as He has loved us. Are we obeying? Are we teaching new disciples how to be compassionate toward those who are weary spiritually?
Living one’s faith is both a witness to the inactive church member and the unchurched. One-Minute Witness helps the reader learn how to share faith naturally at the appropriate time. Compassion, Listening, and Friendship are just some of the chapter titles in this concise, creative, comprehensive, and affordable booklet.