The Hallmark people have distinguished themselves through the slogan ''When you care enough to send the very best. '' In North America we believe that Christ's church on earth ought to be known as the community that cares enough to send the very best, the message about the Gift of Heaven s greatest and best to the world. Christians are to project to the world a picture of this kind of God, His character and how He is revealed in Christ. They are to be known as the loving, caring community. As they look upon the world around them and assess its needs they are moved with compassion as was their Master when He saw the multitudes. They see the real needs of individuals and families in their cities, towns, and villages. Their deepest needs have been met by Jesus Christ, and they now have the burning desire to share Him and their experience with neighbors and friends. They care about people. They care about the communities around them. They care enough to send the very best.
There is a great deal of talk today about felt needs. Felt needs are not necessarily needs that people always recognize they have. A felt need may be some deep, gnawing, inarticulated desire. Felt needs are basic needs, but they are not always understood. People cannot always bring them to expression. But the church should understand humanity because people are what the church is all about people who are moved with compassion, people who see and understand their neighbor's needs, even though he may not be able to express them. Christians minister to those needs. They care enough to send the very best.
All across North America this concept of the caring church is catching on and coming into focus. We are mapping strategies to equip, sensitize, and prepare individual members and churches to project this powerful, life-giving image of Jesus Christ. Caring leads to sharing. Like the apostle John (1 John 1:1-4), we share what we have, what we have seen, what we have known, what we have experienced. Caring leads to action. Caring leads to clear thinking about our mission and purpose in the world. Caring leads to planning and the execution of those plans.
So the church must look at itself, but not for too long. We already have our job description, our instructions, our marching orders. The profile is etched in Scripture and has been demonstrated in the life of our Lord. It is this that we are to share, to talk about, to reveal to the world. As a television set projects images, we are to project a picture to the world, one that will bring reality to the confusion of modem life. We are to dispel the misapprehensions about the character of God and reveal Him clearly. As the TV set has various controls to sharpen its picture projection, so the church must fine tune its representation so that it will be accurate, clear, and precise in living color. This is our mission, and we should be in dead earnest about it.
The word koinonia in New Testament Greek is loosely translated "fellowship." But the word means more than simply a human, family-type relationship between church members. John speaks of fellowship with Jesus Christ and with God the Father. Fellowship is in the Holy Spirit. Individual Christians through the ministry of the Holy Spirit are folded into one body by Christian fellowship. Their interaction with one another moves them toward the supreme goal of the stature of Christ Jesus. This kind of fellowship results in a dynamism in the community, a moving spirit, a compelling force to extend the fellow ship. The church that cares comes out of the huddle of the ingroup and the select crowd and, like the yeast and the salt that our Lord used as prime examples, penetrates the community, the society, about it.
This kind of agape love always leads to action specific, loving, caring action. I am happy that the church in North America is girding itself for action. The Caring Church Action Strategy came out of the Church Ministries meeting held in January in Winter Haven, Florida, as a result of much prayer, thought, and the experience of churches, pastors, and conference officers who want to see in North America a dynamic example of the people who care enough. It was adopted by the union presidents at that meeting and was then recommended to the North American Division commit tee on administration. That group accepted it as the model for the division. I'd like to share some excerpts from this exciting document:
"The mission of the North American Division is to proclaim the 'good news' of salvation to the unwarned masses living in North America. There are thousands of people who are reachable and ready to respond to the Spirit's pleading. By developing a specific strategy to equip our pastors to be 'enablers' and 'proclaimers,' and with the local church serving as an evangelistic center, the church can rise to the challenge of the eighties. This concept is built on the Faith Action Advance philosophy that recognizes the local church as the primary agency of church growth and the pastor as the key leader in the local church. It is our responsibility to provide a comprehensive Caring Church Action Strategy which will aid in reaching the 1000 Days of Reaping objective as well as fulfilling the mission of the North American Division. Therefore, we pro pose the following steps to meet these objectives:
"A series of area workshops to introduce and implement a Caring Church Action Strategy for the North American Division. This strategy is based on the Faith Action Advance (FAA) model of planning, equipping, implementing, and evaluating. The goal of these work shops is to provide the participating pastor and selected lay persons with the instruction and materials necessary to develop an action-centered, caring evangelistic church.
"A competent staff including the most experienced and successful churchgrowth personnel and public evangelists in North America will be developed.
This staff will prepare resource materials and provide instruction for the work shop.
"Each workshop will introduce the principles of the Caring Church model, i.e., that all resources and services within the church are to be based on our Lord's commission, interdepartmentally coordinated, relational (people-centered) , and oriented for a sequential flow that will involve members and make disciples of nonmembers."
All this .sounds very good. It is good, but it must go further. It must lead to action, and sometimes we will not act until we set dates, places, and become specific. Under the concept of the Caring Church, generalities will not do. So there is a timetable for implementing the Caring Church Action Strategy. Conferences or churches may choose to follow an alternate timetable, but we urge all to follow the same Caring Church Action Strategy.
"August-December, 1983. Area work shops conducted as arranged by each union.
"September, 1983-August, 1984. Six to nine months of training, planning, and conducting of evangelistic worship services and reaping crusades/seminars.
"August-September, 1984. Evaluation and assessment by workshop staff, North American Division officers, union presidents, and local conference administration."
Who, then, should be involved in this bold, comprehensive strategy? Obviously only those who are committed to the priority of church growth and evangelism, those who have caught the vision and are highly motivated, those who have experienced fellowship with Jesus Christ and with their brothers and sisters and who have a burning desire to bring others into this saving relationship and caring fellowship. The Caring Church Action Strategy includes the following basis for workshop attendance by both pastors and lay members:
"A commitment to the priority of church growth and evangelism.
"An agreement to follow an outlined strategy of preparation for the community and church, and the willingness to conduct or participate in an evangelistic series/seminar within six to nine months following the conclusion of the work shop."
Among church leaders there is a new consciousness that organization on every level is but a support system for what takes place in the local congregation. Conferences are institutions obligated under God to make every effort to facilitate the work of individual members and their churches. The document recognizes this principle and concludes with these words:
"The essential ingredients of the Caring Church Action Strategy include spiritual renewal, an understanding of church-growth principles that makes use of the regular worship service as an evangelistic agency, strategies for community outreach, lay involvement, adequate field preparation, thorough church organization, as well as aggressive public and personal evangelism/seminars including follow-up and nurture.
"Each of these essential ingredients is incorporated into this strategy; there fore, this proposed model has the potential for moving the North American Division aggressively ahead for God. The times demand it! The lostness of men and women within the North American Division territory compels us to act now! Our church members and pastors have a deep heart yearning to commit themselves to an all-consuming effort directed toward finishing the work our Lord has given us.
"In oneness of the Spirit, we commit ourselves to this united endeavor, believing that we will see thousands won to Christ because we are fulfilling the mission of the North American Division. Then the Holy Spirit, working through a dedicated, united church, will translate the Caring Church Action Strategy into faith, action, and advance."
I am excited about the prospect. I envision thousands of churches across the North American Division coming to life, becoming "resurrection centers," as someone has called them, with pastors and members united in proclaiming the life-giving message. Worship services take on a new dimension! Every Sabbath becomes an opportunity to invite neighbors, friends, and the people of the community to join the fellowship.
I want, here and now, to commit myself and whatever I have and am tq making this dream a reality. I ask you to join me. "Floods of spiritual power are to be poured forth upon those prepared to receive it." —Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 46. The Spirit of God invites us to respond now, for all things are made ready.