The impact of our church took off a decade ago when a group of leaders included me in a Bible study to discuss why churches were so disconnected from their communities. From Acts 2, we studied the early church’s pattern. “They began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need… every day they continued to meet… praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Lights went on. The early church started with good deeds. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone who had needs. Good deeds led to good will. They had favor with God and with all the people. Because of that, the people received their good news. Good deeds leads to good will, which leads to openness to the good news.
When I got home, I told my staff and congregation that we had been trying to deliver the good news without good deeds. No wonder there was no good will. “This is going to mess up our church in some very good ways,” I said. “The early church majored in unleashing compassion, and we have to pursue that pattern.”
Since then, we’ve engaged in sacrificial giving campaigns and, once each year, we conduct Serve Weekend. We disband Sunday services so that, for the whole weekend, the entire church family can exercise their gifts in the community.
We ignored experts who said we’d lose income and members. To prepare for that first weekend, we asked people around us how we could meet needs. On Sunday we hung out a sign, “The church has left the building.” Ten thousand people signed up and showed up. We served in medical clinics downtown, rebuilt schools, and more.
Now, it takes a whole year and a dedicated staff to work through hundreds of requests for service and dozens of offers to join forces with us.
When compassion was unleashed and church people were released into their areas of gifting, community barriers came down, and attendance and giving shot skyward.