The local church exists to glorify God the Father by making disciples of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. As members of the local church, we play an invaluable role in the body by caring for others. As Paul writes in Ephesians 4:11-16
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
According to this passage, the church (the body of Christ) has been given ministers that have the express purpose of “equipping the saints for the work of ministry.” The types of ministry that the saints are called to will differ from person to person on account of the fact that they all possess different gifts. While the types of ministry will differ, the commands to be obeyed in the context of ministry will not differ. For example, while one may have the gift of service and another has the gift of leadership, both are expected to show forth the love of Christ to others. We are not exempted from showing care and love for others because we are “introverted.”
Ultimately, our faithfulness to Christ’s commands affects the health of the body of Christ. In other words, if we care for others, the church will grow in maturity and unity in Christ. If we do not care for others, the church will wither and eventually die as a local expression of the body of Christ. Churches made up of members that do not show genuine care and concern for each other just will not last, nor do they deserve to last. They are a terrible testimony to the care and love that God has for us. Such churches do not glorify God.
All of this, then, leads to the broad question: How are we caring for each other in the context of this church? Here are nine concrete examples of ways that we can care for others in the context of the church.
- Pray for Them – This is the most important aspect of our care for others. When this is consistently practiced, many of the other aspects of care will fall right into place.
- Understand Them – Go to the effort to trying to put yourself in the shoes of the person that you are attempting to care for and ask yourself, “How would I want someone to care for me?” Making this effort is crucial to our caring ministry.
- Write to Them – This is relatively painless and means a lot to people. Whether it is a handwritten note (these are the best), an email, or even a short text message, simply letting them know that you are thinking about them means more than we can often imagine.
- Call Them – It takes very little time and is welcomed by most. A brief phone call reminding them about an event or an opportunity shows that their involvement matters to you.
- Eat with Them – One of the most intimate things human beings do together is enjoying a meal. Whether you take them out to eat or have them over for a home cooked meal, this type of fellowship is simply invaluable.
- Listen to Them – Listening is incredibly important and often overlooked when connecting with people. Admittedly, some people are hard to hold a conversation with, so we have to be creative. Learn to ask good questions that draw people out. Pay attention to them. Maintain eye contact. Don’t worry about the other conversations going on around you. Be fully engaged and present!
- Help Them – If you know that there is a need, volunteer to help. Even if you are not able to do too much physically, every little bit helps and will mean a lot to them. If the need is great, speak with other in the church to help mobilize a team of helpers. When people with no relationship to the individual show up to help, it testifies to the types of relationships that exist within the church of which we want them to be a part.
- Invite Them – Even if you think (or know) they will not come to what you are going to invite them to, invite them anyway. Don’t grow weary. In due season, a harvest will be reaped!
- Plan to Care – People do not typically drift into godliness. It takes effort and planning. Intend to care for others, then carry out your plan. Write out a prioritized TODO list and work through it from the most important to the least important, making sure that you plan to care for a particular person is at the top of the list. Don’t do anything else until you have fulfilled this priority.
These nine examples are just scratching the surface of ways that we can care for others in the context of the church. Can you think of any others ways to care for people? Comment below and share your ideas!