I like it when I hear an emphasis on “random acts of kindness” in our communities.  In my head I tend to change it to “random acts of love”. I try to practice this approach when I see opportunities come up. I’m not sure, though, that I’m always observant enough to recognize the opportunities when they happen. I’m still looking for opportunities, but my major approach is what I call “planned acts of love”. For short I’m calling this P.A.L. (yeah, I know that there is also an “o”, but “P.A.O.L.” doesn’t work as well). This is where I intentionally look for, and plan, ways of loving other people.

Some of my P.A.L. projects take a lot of planning, work, and time, while others are much faster and easier. Some of the projects cost very little, and others have had a way of becoming financially expensive. I have done most of my P.A.L. projects by myself, though there have been some cases where I have had “co-conspirators”.

If you won’t tell anyone else, I’ll let you in on one of my dreams (you can keep this quiet, right?). For years I have thought about starting a secret group that would work together to initiate and implement planned acts of love (P.A.L.). In my imagination, this group would keep their identities a mystery. When people least expected it, they would strike with a P.A.L.! The world would wonder, but few would know, who was doing all of these acts of love! Together we would combine our resources and search for amazing ways to love other people. So far, it’s just a dream. Maybe someday it will be a reality.

Perhaps part of the reason that I like churches is that they can be (and often are) the public version of my dream. People come together to worship God and to plan ways that they can love other people. They do this by combining their resources, talents, and passions. Individuals usually work under the identity of the church.

For the P.A.L. approach to work for a church, it is necessary for the church to have an outward focus. That is how they are able to see the people that God is guiding them to love. This kind of church can see what is happening in the world around them.

When is it tempting for a church to have an inward focus? From my experience this happens the most when a church’s survival is feeling threatened. The church becomes afraid that they will not have enough members and/or finances to stay open. This is where it becomes common for maintenance of the church building to become the primary mission of the church. When a visitor arrives, the church wonders how (or if) this person will help the church. The irony is that the churches who are the most concerned about their survival are more likely to close their doors (Mark’s theory #227).

When a visitor comes to an outwardly focused church, the church wonders what they can do to help this person. These churches don’t just wait for people to come through their doors, but they go looking for people to love. These are the churches that tend to be more vibrant and vital.

What kind of focus does your church have? How about you individually? Is there time for a P.A.L. in your life?

Your brother on the journey, Mark

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