I have just returned from our annual Chapel Retreat which was held at Epworth-By-The-Sea on beautiful St. Simon’s Island. We had wonderful fellowship with a great group in a gorgeous setting. Dennis and Mary Ann Hollinger led our sessions with a review of the material in his book, Head, Heart and Hands: Bringing Together Christian Thought, Passion and Action. It is easy for us to get caught only in one of those categories – to be a head person, a heart person, or a hands person, and not to value the other expressions of faith. As a head person I need to seek sensitivity to my heart side, and to push myself into action. I recommend Dennis’s book for further reflection. Dennis is President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
George Hunter in his book, The Apostolic Congregation: Church Growth Reconceived For a New Generation, reinforces the point that appealing to the head only, by preaching, is not enough to communicate the Gospel. Actions speak louder than words. Nonverbal messages are more important than verbal messages. Churches get into trouble when they say one thing and do another. Church leaders who proclaim grace and then don’t live it in their attitudes and relationships are not believable. Love communicates. People don’t care how much you know; they want to know how much you care. Dr. Hunter makes the following observations about the movement of many people toward Christian faith.
- People become more receptive to involvement with a church during a season of their lives when they are ‘between gods.’ They have given up on whatever they most recently relied upon to complete their lives and are open to something else.
- They are more likely to visit a church if they have heard about it.
- They are more likely to visit if the church has a positive public image.
- They are more likely to visit if one or more church members (whom they know and trust) invites them – perhaps several times, or more.
- When they visit, they look for clear signs of life or energy. Although they cannot verbalize it, they realize they need grace or spiritual power to overcome their sins or problems, without which they cannot live new lives and become the people they were meant to be (and have always wanted to be).
- They look to see if there are people in the church who are like them – people who would understand them, with whom they can identify, and who might serve as role models.
- They sense whether they can relate to and make meaning from the church’s language, music, style, and aesthetics.
- If they get this far, they are now looking to see how committed the people are to the church’s truth claims and mission.
- Furthermore, if they get this far they are now observing how loving and caring the church is. They have heard that, whatever else Christians are supposed to be, they are people who love other people.
- By now, also, the church is able to engage seekers more deeply if they have perceived the church to be credible. In interviews, they typically comment on how the church’s consistency (between what it believes and what the church and its people do) impressed and moved them. And they especially comment on how compassionate they found the church to be.
This brings together head, heart and hands; thought, passion and action. May we be so balanced and authentic in our lives.