Being a Church of Philanthropia
We read a very interesting story in the latter chapters of Acts.
Paul is heading to Rome for trial, and Luke goes with him. These chapters are unique in that Luke is writing as an eyewitness to what is happening. A mighty storm causes a huge shipwreck, but all 276 of the passengers survive. They reach an island called Malta located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.
After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold.
At this time there weren’t Christ-followers on Malta, but a thriving church would soon take root on the small archipelago. What is very interesting is Luke describes them as having “unusual kindness”. There are several Greek words that are translated as kindness, but this one is found only here and in the book of Titus. It is the word philanthrōpia. Paul uses this word in his letter to Titus, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us…” (Titus 3:4-5)
Obviously, the word philanthropia is where we get the word philanthropy. It was a fairly popular word to the Ancient Greeks. It comes from the two Greek words, “brotherly love” and “humanity”. It means to have love for all humanity, and as we see in Acts, it goes beyond culture, language, and even faith. We know that God loves us with agape love, but Titus reminds us that he also loves humanity with a familial love.
Our goal is followers of Christ is to be disciples and to become like Christ in our actions, our thoughts, and our heart. One of these aspects has got to be our philanthropy – our love of humanity. Sometimes that means kindling a fire for a stranger, as in the case of the Maltans. Sometimes it means greeting a stranger on Sunday morning and making them feel welcome. At all times it means to love people like Jesus, so that they, too, can be saved.
Each Sunday, there are undoubtedly people who are coming into the doors of your church who are not yet followers of Jesus Christ. Many of whom may be there for the very first time. It will not take long for them to decide whether your church (or even church in general) is for them.
One of the greatest things a leader can do is demonstrate, teach, and lead their welcoming team and congregation to show philanthropia. Invest personally in your welcoming team. Go out of your way to thank them and let them know of their importance. Listen to their ideas and suggestions. Honor them in your service. They are the initial face of your church, and their philanthropia will be infectious, so encourage them like crazy!
My prayer is that they leave with the same amazement that Luke had over 1900 years ago – “Those church people showed us incredible kindness!”
May your church be filled with the spirit of philanthropy!