In our church, we have a Guest Care Team. Their responsibilities include making sure guests are warmly greeted, information is put into their hands, and opportunities for future contact are gathered. This is merely one way we try to intentionally exude warmth and love as a local church body. We want to avoid that age-old stinging comment that no local church desires to hear about itself: “That was a cold church.” Jesus said that “all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). So, long before a local church should be concerned with how it treats its guests, it should be concerned with how members treat one another. Now, you could try to organize a “love committee” or talk to your pastor or have a Bible study to survey love, but I want to suggest a more covert operation: Operation Contagious Love. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to deliberately spread a viral culture of loving one another. This positive virus is highly infectious and not easily defeated by sour people who forgot how to smile. Your mission has several components:
- Make a Family Plan—As you meet together with your family (or if single, meeting together with some others) to plan this covert operation, your plan should include the following:
- Plan to avoid joy-killers. Avoid complaining, gossip, and a generally negative attitude.
- Plan for affection. How many people at church can you enthusiastically greet with a smile? How many names can you learn? How many hugs can you give? How many people can you pull aside and pray for them right on the spot? How early can you come to church, and how late can you stay to meaningfully interact?
- Plan for hospitality. Make a plan to set aside a number of evenings in the coming months in which to invite fellow believers into your home. Demonstrate your love with this concrete step.
- Plan for hot targets. Look for those who tend to fall through the cracks or who do not naturally engender a lot of affection. Target them for extra love and genuine attention.
- Plan for a post-Sunday love report. Who got to talk to whom? How did each family member spread love and joy? What prayer needs did you discover in the lives of others? Use this time to pray for those you loved and to set goals for your next opportunity.
Whatever plan you make, the point is to be intentional and to include the whole family in your process.
- Meet a Tangible Need—As you interact with those you are loving, make note of needs that your family could literally meet. Nothing says true love like meeting a tangible need. When the older widower says he needs to clear the fallen tree in his backyard, volunteer to bring your family to help. When the mother of five hasn’t been able to get over a cold for a couple of weeks, volunteer to babysit so she can have a night to rest. You get the point: when you are genuinely discovering the needs of others, you will be presented with opportunities to minister to them in the most practical of ways. View these opportunities as treasures which you unearthed by your efforts.
- Minister to Your Shepherds—Make yourself and your family available as an extra set of hands on behalf of your pastors or elders. You can minister to all or just pick one to “adopt.” Here are some ideas to love him above and beyond for the hard work he does in shepherding your church.
- Give his office an extra thorough cleaning, leaving fresh flowers behind.
- Babysit his children for an extra night out with his wife.
- Repair his vehicle or even just give him a coupon for some free car washes.
- Use your professional skills to minister to him and his family.
- Write him a note of encouragement from your whole family.
These are all gifts that have been given to me and my family, and let me tell you, they inspire and engender our love not only toward them but toward the entire church. Thus, your act of love to your shepherd literally impacts the entire church.
If you choose to engage in Operation Contagious Love, you are modeling this love for others who will see the Christ-like example you are setting. Since we are built by God to follow examples, others will—now having a role model—follow suit. If you keep at it, eventually people will be competing to out-love one another. The very least result that will happen is that you will be more obedient to the Lord to radiate His love and grace as is befitting the beloved Bride of Christ.