Culture of Care
What is culture? The culture of a people group, the culture of a family, the culture of a church all have to do with the atmosphere, attitudes, traditions, and practices. God has called His church to a certain culture that counters the culture of the world around them. This culture contains an atmosphere of care, attitude of love, traditions of connections with the Word and each other, and practices of good works that demonstrate genuine faith.
So, what does an atmosphere of care look like? Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds us that the purpose of gathering together on a regular basis is to encourage each other and to ‘stir one another on to love and good deeds.” Acts 4:34 tells us that the first church in Jerusalem had such an atmosphere of care that no one had any needs. Let us take a closer look at what that atmosphere looked like so that we can work at following their example.
1. Physical Needs: In both Acts 2:44 and 4:32, Luke tells us that the early church had everything in common. It seems that those who were wealthy, like Joseph (later called Barnabas), would donate generously to the church leadership (Acts 4:34-37) to provide for the needs of those who were poor. The church became so notorious for physical care that the disciples needed to appoint deacons (Acts 6:1-7) for the purpose of service ministries, that is, caring for the needy. In that case, the main need was for older widows and orphan children. The church leadership, according to the guidelines Jesus left behind, sought to fight against prevalent racism to minister to all people that would come join the church.
So, what is it you are doing to help meet the physical needs of those in our church? This is the reason why we have tithes and offerings, which go toward the overall ministries of the church, but this is not enough. We also have a benevolent fund (cash box for emergency needs), yet money does not solve every problem. We need to build close relationships with the people that make up Grace Bible Church so that we can get to know needs. It may be something like providing garden produce to someone who cannot afford groceries for a time. It may also be a younger person providing technology advice to someone older who is trying to keep connected (especially in times like this). It may be driving someone to get groceries or go to the doctor.
2. Emotional Needs: God’s church, according to the founder Jesus Christ, is based on the greatest two commandments, which are to love God and to love each other. The law of love deals with the emotional needs. Again, in Acts we see the early church meeting each others’ needs in such a way that all were satisfied; this would include emotional needs. How do I know this? As you read through Acts, we see both poor and rich, Jew and Gentile, attracted to the church, desiring to live God’s way despite the prevailing culture. Despised and rejected by Romans and Jews alike, even persecuted to the point of death in many cases, people were still attracted because of the healing and acceptance that Christianity brought.
So, who is attracted to Grace Bible Church? Do newcomers find healing and acceptance in our midst? The love of Jesus Christ must shine so brightly through all of us that this does happen! Again, we see the importance of building close relationships with the people that make up GBC, of all ages, so that we can get to know the emotional needs and meet them. Church is a place of learning and growing, but it is also a place of healing. How do you react to someone that comes with emotional needs? Perhaps they have addictions, or rough backgrounds, or unloving families. We have the power of the Holy Spirit within us to love them into the kingdom and help them to deal with their issues rather than judging them for having these issues. Everyone sins and has to deal with the consequences of their choices. We must not judge anyone for the choices they make, but rather lovingly help them make better choices. If they reject our help, then do not get upset, but rather love them from a distance. Jesus instructed His disciples to never force the gospel on anyone. Let us utilize the power of the Holy Spirit to selflessly take time to help those around us with emotional needs.
3. Spiritual Needs: The apostles, and later the appointed elders, were the main ones responsible for the spiritual care of each local body of believers. We do see, however, that all believers have the responsibility of making disciples, which is caring for the spiritual condition of others. This responsibility translates to teaching, encouragement and exhortation to those who are at the same level or less mature than yourself. Matthew 28:19-20 describes discipleship as teaching the commandments of Christ, baptizing in the name of Christ and relying on the power of Christ. Paul tells Timothy, in 2 Timothy 3:16, that the scriptures are given for the purpose of teaching doctrine, reproof of sin, correction and training in righteous living. A young couple named Aquilla and Priscilla were able to teach a preacher named Apollos, to help him know the whole gospel and to be able to present it well.
What are you doing to grow in your faith and subsequently help others to grow too? Everyone has spiritual needs, and everyone has the resources to help others with their spiritual needs, even those who seem more spiritually mature. I was extremely blessed the other day when a couple decided to give me a call just to see how we are doing. We have a responsibility to, in love and out of humble motives, reach out to others in our congregation. Once again, this does require the building of close relationships. Do you see a pattern yet? As we work on relationship building, we begin to see the needs of each other and can start meeting those needs
Let us work on building a culture of care in our congregation. When we truly begin to care for each other, even in times of physical isolation from each other, then people outside the church and visitors to our church will be attracted to both the culture of our church and the love of Christ.