Gary Chapman's best-selling book series – The Five Love Languages, outlines five ways of expressing and receiving love effectively, demonstrating commitment to a relationship. One of these ways he lists as 'Acts of Service'. This involves demonstrable practical actions that help the recipient, expressing value and care for them. It is also an expression of the heart of the giver in the way they interpret love.
We see this principle mirrored in the books of Acts with the early church making the gospel meaningful by expressing love in practical and relevant ways to their members and community.
Acts 4:32-35 states:
“Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold,and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.”
How would this translate in 2022 in the face of the current cost-of-living crisis? God inspired me to develop the acronym ACTS as a way of expressing love and sharing the good news (the gospel) of Jesus in relevant ways as a response to current world events. This is being introduced as part of my departmental outreach for Community Services, Health Ministries and Women's Ministries.
Here is what ACTS stands for:
A – Attention: What do you see around you? Pay attention to the obvious needs.
C – Compassion: What compassionate action can you take to address those needs?
T – Teamwork: What organised approach can you undertake as a united team?
S – Solutions: Implementing effective and efficient responses to meet the needs.
Undertake an inventory of the needs of your membership and community. Who do you see struggling with day-to-day living? Who has housing challenges, unable to pay essential bills, eat adequately, clothe themselves, or provide for their families?
Identify resources, organisations, support groups etc., that are skilled in dealing with humanitarian support for the visible and expressed needs that come to your attention. You can then refer those in need of assistance and offer personal help as you can.
In noting the above needs, what is your response? Are you impacted by what you see?
Compassion is defined as a "Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it" (Free Online Dictionary).
Matthew 9:36 records Jesus being "moved with compassion…" for the multitude around Him, seeing their varying needs. He then ministered to those areas of deficit.
E G White counsels:
"It should be written upon the conscience as with a pen of iron upon a rock, that he who disregards mercy, compassion, and righteousness, he who neglects the poor, who ignores the needs of suffering humanity, who is not kind and courteous, is so conducting himself that God cannot co-operate with him in the development of character." (Counsel for the Church, 283.4).
In this step, we move from having the ideas and deliberating them to organising a coordinated response. No one person can provide for the needs of every individual. We see in Acts 4:32-35 a coordinated church approach to the needs of the day, in what we would now call Total Membership Involvement.
A united team approach works best when all participants buy into the vision and individuals' specific skills are utilised.
During the pandemic, we saw excellent teamwork through the responsive outreach of churches providing love through relevant 'Acts of Service', such as food, essential household items, literature distribution and counselling support. Subsequently, individuals' physiological, psychological, spiritual, relational and social needs were met.
Implementing relevant and effective solutions for challenging life issues is essential to help mitigate against harmful repercussions of those challenges.
The solutions will differ depending on your membership and community needs. However, analysing the possible trajectory is important as we prepare for impending or forecasted difficulties. This is acting strategically and not reactionary. We see the wisdom of Bible characters such as Joseph, who prepared for the famine, so there was grain in Egypt to feed its inhabitants and surrounding nations when the famine eventually came (Genesis 41:33-37, 47-49, 54-57).
In light of the cost-of-living crisis and the global projection of a possible food shortage, one solution is to identify adequate storage facilities for our surplus. Hence, we have sufficient reserves for the future. This enables us to support others in need better. The following article gives some helpful hints:
The recent SEC Women's Ministries Day of Fellowship, held at Holloway Adventist church, was a beautiful example of 'ACTS of Service', sharing food, household items, literature and prayers with the community.
How does your church express love to the membership and surrounding community? Perhaps the next time you read the newspaper or listen to the news, engage your attention, compassion, team, and solutions to make an appropriate response to the needs around you.