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October Activate Post: What the early Church can teach our congregations


“Look how they love one another.” This was heard on the streets between the years of 250 AD and 270 AD as people watched the way Christians responded during a deadly plague that was killing thousands of people a day. While most people fled the Roman Empire to get away from the sickness, Christians stayed and risked the possibility of death. They stayed to care for the sick and comfort the dying. News of this shocking response spread, and individuals began talking about how Christians loved.

The action of believers in the third century is radical. They didn’t do this on their own, though; they were following the example of the radical love of Jesus. In Mark 1:41, Jesus was moved with compassion and touched a man with leprosy to heal him. Therefore, Christ’s precedent wasn’t only to move towards suffering, but to be filled with compassion. This care that Jesus showed, and has called us to show, is what my graduate professor, Dr. Marty Goerhing, calls the “Soul Care Commission.”

My professor spoke of this commission as a layer of the Great Commission regarding how the Church can share the love of Jesus Christ. Luke 4:16-20 reminds us of Jesus’ ministry beginning after He was tempted in the wilderness. This passage goes on to quote Jesus, who was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:18), reciting Isaiah 60:1-2. These verses instruct us to bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for captives, release prisoners from darkness, and comfort those who mourn. From this, those mourning will receive a crown of beauty in place of ashes, the oil of gladness, and garment of praise instead of mourning and despair.

This passage in Isaiah reminds us of the relational spirit of Jesus. He sat with the brokenhearted and comforted them (John 4:1-26). His presence brought hope without Him even speaking (Matthew 9:18-26). He knew that suffering could be a pathway to Him, helping us to be conformed in His image. Risking to meet people where they were, no matter the brokenness or suffering, was vital.

As His bride, we are given beautiful opportunities to care for the souls of others. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can help restore the well-being of those who are hopeless or hurting. Through acts of love and mercy, we can help lead others to life in Him. This can require significant time, emotion, and prayer, but Jesus lived this out and asks us to do the same.

For whom would it be radical for your church to love? For how long would it be radical to love? What if we can’t solve the problem, like in the case of the plague? Can we continue to love? There are many around us who are struggling—believers and non-believers, and even ourselves. Just as the early Church was known by the way they loved one another, we also, as followers of Jesus in 2019, can be known as those who selflessly care for others. We have the guiding words from Scripture, others who came before us, and the power of the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, to help us as we continue embarking on the Great Commission.

Is the heart of your church one of radical compassion that would lead to radical obedience to serve the world with the self-sacrificial love of Jesus?

If your church is interested in exploring your unique missional call, you may reach us at We would love the opportunity to connect with you.

Malory Sanvidge is the church culture administrative coordinator for TMS Global.