I recently learned about a church that operates by the mantra: Belong. Believe. Behave.  This is the way they have found outreach into their community to be very effective.

A story was shared about a couple that was living together that started attending their church. They found love and acceptance at the church and eventually felt like it was a place where they could belong. In time, they learned about their need for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ leading them to chose to believe.  Eventually, they felt like their relationship was experiencing a staleness. They went to talk to the pastor to ask for his wisdom and he shared about sexual purity before marriage and encouraged the couple to consider not living together and to eventually pursue marriage. They chose to follow the pastor’s wisdom resulting in their choice to behave according to Biblical truth.

I was challenged. Too often Christianity operates by that mantra in reverse: First you behave in order to be accepted, then you believe to stay involved, then you belong if you keep living rightly.

However, if you look at the life of Jesus Christ, his first response to broken, hurting, and confused people was compassion.  He accepted them as they were.  Yes, he shared truth with them, but there was an immediate acceptance in his eyes and his heart toward them.

That causes me to ask myself: Do people see an acceptance in my eyes when they come in contact with me? Do they feel accepted? Loved? Valued?  Or do they feel judged?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about condoning immoral behavior. I’m talking about connecting to the heart of someone who is making poor choices as a first step in the process toward helping them.  Can I accept someone for who they are even if they’re not “behaving” morally…can I see them through the eyes of Jesus?  Can I treat them as Jesus does with grace, love, and compassion?

In the past few weeks, it seems I’ve had more opportunities to put this concept into practice.  I’m finding that its actually giving me a different perspective and I’m not “freaking out” about people’s sinful behavior but rather focusing on connecting to their heart. Hearing their hurts. Seeing them as wounded, broken, or scared.

Loving before leading.

Do you have someone in your life that just needs to be loved? Can you help them feel that they have value and worth just as they are? Can you contribute to their sense of belonging?

If you can, you just might start them down the road to believing and eventually behaving.

What about you? Have you ever found that a change in your heart was an eventual result of someone caring about you first?  What are your thoughts about Belong. Believe. Behave? 

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