At church last night, our group was discussing a church in Austin, Texas that had someone who ministers to the homeless in that area come in and speak. At the altar call, he didn’t ask anyone to come down and get saved. He didn’t ask anyone to come down for prayer. He asked that each person would pray and ask God if they should give their shoes to the homeless. If they felt they were, they were to come to the front, take off their shoes and leave them there.
I started thinking about that and the book “The 5 Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman. In it, he describes five ways that people give and receive love: words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, physical touch and gifts. Then I started thinking, if those are the ways people receive love, shouldn’t we the Church be showing love to the lost in their love languages? The story in Austin was showing love through gifts. For a lot of believers, this is the easiest way to show love because we give out of our abundance and then move on with our lives. What if we continued to give gifts until it came from our necessity and not our abundance?
Words of affirmation are another one that doesn’t require much of us, but we hardly do it. I was having a rough day recently and had a lot on my mind. As I stopped to pump gas, my mind was working. A lady on the other side of the pump said, “Hey, you should smile every once in a while. It’ll do wonders!” I snapped out of my thought coma, looked at her and smiled. She said, “See. Doesn’t that feel better?” She got in her car and drove off. Her words of affirmation changed my mindset. It made my day better. We can do that too.
Where things start to get difficult are the remaining three. I once heard it said that many people spell “love”, T-I-M-E. Quality time is not something we usually want to do with “the least of these”. We’d rather give something that costs us less. The problem is that those who receive love this way are left out when we’d rather take the easier route. If we truly care about the lost, we need to find ways to spend quality time with them, invest in a relationship and share the love of Christ with them.
I like acts of service when reaching out to the lost. I call it “putting sweat equity in the Kingdom”. Give a day of your time, labor and talents to someone who needs it. This speaks volumes to those who receive love this way. Find a widow or elderly couple nearby who need yard or house work done and help them. Find a single mom who needs help and offer to help her. Find a ministry who is doing one of the other love languages and help them. It requires your time and effort, but is well worth it.
Finally, there is physical touch. Jesus was good at this. He laid His hands on people and touched them. He wasn’t afraid to go up to lepers and touch them. They were considered unclean and people were forbidden to touch them, but Jesus did it anyway. Who are today’s “lepers”? Who does society deem “unclean”? They need us to reach out to them, hug them and to share God’s love with them.
The book shows that we typically give love in ways we like to receive it. In a relationship, you have to learn someone else’s language to keep their “love tank” full. In ministry, I think that if you’re good at giving love in your language, that’s the area you need to show love to others in. Each church should have ministries that give love to others in these five ways. It will allow those in the church who give love those ways a place to plug in. It will also allow the church to share love in the ways that people in their community receive it. Think of the difference that could make for your church and God’s Kingdom.