Faith, hope and love; a return to these active qualities in the heart of a congregation has the power to transform the church from declining to dynamic. The revitalizer must work at reinserting these concepts into the beliefs of God’s people if a turnaround is to occur.
Loving God and loving each other are accepted norms for modern Christians; but, without a deep love for those who do not yet know Christ, God’s favor may be withheld from a church. (Matthew 28:18-20) He is passionate about pursuing the perishing!
The challenge of presenting the truth of the gospel to people today is gaining access to their hearts; unless one “believes in his heart” (Romans 10:9) he or she cannot experience true faith. People have locked themselves away from hearing the truth; the acrostic H.E.A.R.T. gives us five keys to unlocking the door and gaining an honest hearing of the gospel.
H – Humility (see previous blog)
E – Empathy (see previous blog)
A – Acts of Kindness and Service
“Show me your faith by your works,” insists James. (2:18) When cultivating a redemptive relationship with someone who is living their life without Christ, we cannot settle for merely speaking the truth to them; we must show them how the truth “feels” when it is being lived out.
Asking them about themselves, their lives, their struggles and even their dreams will reveal certain needs that can be met, usually through simple acts of kindness. Rather than ask, “How can I help you?”, ask, “Would it be alright if the men of our church came over and took care of those gutters?” Or, “You need a night out. Would you allow some ladies from our church to watch your children while you take a break?” Or, “Would you and your children come to our home for Thanksgiving?” Just listen for an opportunity to offer help. They may very well refuse, but they will never forget that you cared enough to ask.
This powerful key turns one more lock in opening the door of their heart to Christ’s message of forgiveness and love.
R – Respect
I am convinced this key is crucial in our nation’s divisive atmosphere. Christians have a God-sent opportunity to show unbelievers how to disagree without destroying someone who is not “on the same page” as us.
Every human being deserves respect because they are a human being, made in God’s image.
If you read Facebook posts, you are probably as appalled as I am at the hate-mongering promoted by some who say they follow Christ.
Why would a person listen to anything you have to say if they know you disrespect them?
If you cannot separate the lifestyle they are living from the Calvary-level love God has for them, you will never be able to speak truth into their lives. Our personal biases must be dealt with at the cross, where Christ died “for all.” (2 Corinthians 5:14) Rather than offending people with our prejudices, which are generated by our sin nature, we must learn to see each person through the lens of God’s heart.
T – Truth
People deserve to be told the truth as it is revealed in the Scriptures. We are all sinful. We are removed, exiled from a relationship with God, Who is absolutely holy. Our only hope for a return to the God Who made us is through the indescribably painful death and remarkable resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. When we call upon Him from a position of helplessness and lostness, He answers our cry with complete forgiveness of sins and unfettered reconciliation and relationship with Him. This is how we find healing, purpose, strength, joy and, eventually, an eternal home in heaven.
Beware: If we practice humility, empathy, acts of kindness and respect, but do not speak the truth in love to them, we have not obeyed “all things He has commanded” us. (Matthew 28:20)
Paul asks the question, “How shall they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:15) I would add to that, “Why would they want to hear about Him from someone who does not have a H.E.A.R.T. for them?” They will not hear from their hearts if we simply stand at a distance and proclaim the truth.
The church that longs to stop the deadly decline in their congregation must learn to love strangers (Deuteronomy 10:19) and gain access to the hearts of people they meet by employing the keys to get them to open the locked door to their innermost being; their heart. When these new believers begin attending the worship services and Bible studies, a renewed sense of hope flows into the church and revitalization is initiated.