By Vince Antonucci
The need for grace in our culture is frequently discussed at our church in Las Vegas. God has overwhelmed us with such an amazing display of grace that we are compelled to demonstrate endless amounts of grace to others. The result is a church community that encourages spiritual growth, extends kindness towards one another and reaches out to the city with the gospel.
Check out these suggestions for 5 ways your church can cultivate a community based on kindness and grace:
1. Pray For a Heart like Jesus
If you saw a Rembrant painting that was covered in mud, you probably wouldn't focus on the dirt or treat it like trash. You would be ecstatic to have something so valuable in your care. You wouldn't try to clean it yourself because you might damage it. You would most likely take it to a master painter who could restore it to it's original condition. The next time you interact with someone, ask Jesus to help you point the way to God by giving you HIS heart for them so that God can remove the mud and reveal the masterpiece.
2. Relationships Help Navigate
It's important to develop a relationship with people so that you have a sincere way to speak truth into their lives. Showing unconditional love builds this kind of relationship and encourages them to trust you. Building a relationship also allows God to use you to help navigate them in the right direction. Developing and nurturing that relationship will help you determine the person's trajectory. Ask God to help you ascertain which way the person is moving, what issues may be holding them back spiritually and how can they move closer to Him.
3. Growth is a Process
We must recognize that growth is a process that looks different for everyone. We often get upset with people when they don’t change right away but change doesn’t happen immediately. What areas of your life is growth still in process? It's important to be patient and give grace to others who are still in the process of growing.
In his book, Not a Fan, Kyle Idleman talks about what a true follower of Christ looks like in contrast to someone who is just a fan. Kyle states that it's very rare to see people who aren't trying to wear some kind of mask or give the illusion they have it all together. He says, "That's what Jesus wants in a follower-someone who isn't pretending on the outside to have it all together." (Not a Fan, page, 74) If we can embrace and love people, regardless of where they are in their growth process, there will be more hope and kindness shared within our communities.
4. Determine The Wheat From The Weeds
Sometimes I wonder if we halt the spiritual momentum in someone’s life by trying to fix something we don’t like about them before the time is right. Jesus told a parable once about how a farmer planted wheat, but there were weeds growing up among the wheat. The problem was, you couldn’t tell the difference between the wheat and the weeds. Sometimes it takes awhile to determine the wheat from the weeds. Yet I wonder; how many leaders get impatient and yank up good wheat because they looked like weeds?
5. Be a Wounded Healer
I wonder if God allows us to be broken so that we can understand the need to have compassion for others.. We hinder our own growth by getting impatient when others don’t grow fast enough. We become so consumed with someone else’s marriage problems that we begin to experience problems in our own marriage. We are so critical of someone else's sin that we become unable to see the sin in our own life. It’s not until we need grace ourselves that we realize other people need it too. Henri Nouwen called it being a “wounded healer" because through our pain we’re able to minister God’s mercy to others.
As we begin to extend more grace towards others, people will experience God through us, and they’ll be drawn to God through our influence. We’ll become good stewards of God’s grace. (1 Peter 4:10) By sharing the type of grace that brings salvation, (Titus 2:11) we join Jesus in His mission of seeking and saving the lost.