Welcome to the latest issue of The Movement Catalysts Blog!
Our topic today is: Tangible Love in the Life of Movement Catalysts.
Tangible Love is a quality that characterizes effective movement catalysts. Now you might be thinking: “Come on, Emanuel. Are you becoming sentimental here? Is this a Christmas season post, talking about love?”
Neither. I’m writing about Tangible Love because expressing it proves to be an essential element of movement catalyzing. I’m writing about love because effective movement catalysts are characterized by this quality. I’m also writing about it because it’s the greatest of all the commandments, according to our Master.
In this post you will read how this quality of Tangible Love manifests itself in the lives of movement catalysts. You can learn from their best practices how to express Tangible Love well in your ministry. And I will offer you concrete steps you can take to grow in it.
A powerful example of Tangible Love
Let me start with a story that exemplifies Tangible Love. Abu, a Nigerian missionary and friend of mine, moved to a people group in a remote village in Northern Nigeria, to bring them news of the kingdom. He lived in their midst for a few years and became like one of them. Wherever he went in the village, he expressed love in tangible ways. Abu genuinely cared for the villagers. He showed real interest in their lives and welfare because he truly loved them. He always took time for a friendly chat and a kind word. He was hospitable. He shared generously with the poor. He visited the sick and offered to pray for them (and gave medications when necessary). He worked with them to start a school and a market. He even served as the secretary to the king whenever he held court. Abu simply loved them. And along the way, he told fascinating stories about Jesus, the friend of Muslims, of atheists, of sinners -- of everyone.
But one night, the village head, who had been hosting Abu for months, suddenly became extremely upset with him for the first time ever. That night, he explained why. The words poured out of the elderly man’s mouth: “All these years, I have been observing you and listening to you. You have been telling your stories about this Jesus – who loved all people, worked with all, was kind to all, and never repaid evil for evil, no matter what. And you have been inviting my people to submit and follow this Jesus so that He can be their ruler and leader. But as I watch you, I see that you are really a con man. You are really that Jesus, aren’t you? I see all the things you mentioned about Jesus are the very things you are doing – and so, when you ask my people to follow Jesus, you are really asking them to follow you. You want to take my place as the ruler of this people, don’t you?”
Abu had emulated the Tangible Love of Jesus so much that this man had concluded that he must be Jesus himself… a man who reflected Tangible Love.
Effective catalysts reflect Tangible Love
What is true for Abu, is true for effective catalysts throughout. When surveying them, their Tangible Love stands out. It radiates from them when you talk to them. When asked to assess themselves, they will tell you that they exhibit this quality very strongly. On a 1-5 scale, catalysts rate themselves on average with a very high 4.68, which means most of them say the description of Tangible Love “definitely applies to me.”
Tangible Love ranks the fifth-highest of all qualities that characterize effective movement catalysts (with only confidence in local disciples, confidence in the Bible, assertiveness, and influencing others’ beliefs ranking slightly higher). Effective catalysts rate themselves higher than other pioneers who have not catalyzed a movement, which means this quality distinguishes movement catalysts from non-catalysts.
What does Tangible Love look like in a catalyst’s life?
Our definition reflects what we have seen in the story from Nigeria: Effective Movement Catalysts genuinely care for the people they reach out to; they express love and genuine interest in their lives and welfare because they truly love them.
In the words of effective movement catalysts
One catalyst describes it with these words: “Acting in selfless ways that build other people’s respect for catalysts, begins with the attitude of love and adding value to others and wanting them to be a success.” Another catalyst describes how Tangible Love features in his life: “Best practice is to express love in practical ways, often in times of need, without fanfare. Catalysts model life in Christ and ministry in ways that command respect.”
One catalyst relates, from his experience in one county in Southeast Asia, the impact Tangible Love can have in movement ministry: “The culture and government administration is a litany of lies and broken promises and that is what people expect. So when I – and also then our local leaders – keep their promises, it is a huge testimony. People often say that our faith community is different from other communities because we really love people.”
These words resonate with the words of another movement catalyst, who gave this charge to the people in his movement: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jesus Christ in John 13:34-35).
This has implications for movement ministry. Another catalyst in Southeast Asia reports: “A very successful national evangelist relates that the Lord had shown him how to win Muslims: “Just love them. Nothing in their religion loves. Just love them.” Just love them! …
I can testify from my own movement experience how essential our Tangible Love was in winning hearts of Muslims. One day our neighbor from across the road, almost as an aside, dropped this comment: “When your family moved into our neighborhood it was like angels had begun to dwell among us.” The honest admission not few Muslims made to me was: “You are purer and more loving than we are. You would be a better Muslim than we are.”
“These Jesus followers have done more good for our people than Islam has in centuries.”
Before a movement began to emerge, our team members had served, lovingly, the rural population of dozens of villages with a feeding program and mobile clinics. We had related to the villagers in order to express love to them. In a public gathering of village chiefs, one chief stood up and daringly claimed, in front of numerous Muslim powerholders of the region: “These sons of Jesus have been with us for less than a year now, but they have done more good for our people than Islam has in centuries.” This chief had clearly experienced the Tangible Love of our team.
These are practices gleaned from effective catalysts. They reported on surveys that they have incorporated these practices into their lives and assess them to have contributed to their movement catalyzing:
BEST PRACTICE 1: “Sleeping on their floor.” This means sharing in people’s lives and lifestyle. I gave this name to this best practice because of the testimony of a catalyst from Southeast Asia who reported: “I don’t only do ministry with them in their fields, I get to know their families well, praying for them, sleeping in their homes (no hotels for me), living as they live. I’ve had many brothers tell me and others that they respect me because I’ve slept on their floor.”
BEST PRACTICE 2: Learning the love languages of one’s host culture. There are different ways of expressing love. Certain “love languages” (Chapman 2015) are more predominant in certain cultures than others. And different people feel more loved through one of these love languages than through others. The love languages are:
1. Words of affirmation: words spoken that are loving and affirm the person in who they are
2. Acts of service: practical support that is helpful to the person
3. Physical touch: touch that expresses warmth, in culturally appropriate ways
4. Quality time: spending time together, engaging in meaningful conversation or joint activity that expresses the value of the other person
5. Gifts: gifts bought or made that are meaningful to the other
6. There are likely to be others in your focus culture, which you need to find out. One example: In the Arab-African culture of Sudan where I ministered, the most important value is called karam in Arabic. This means generosity of time, resources and service, including hospitality.
Learn the love languages of the individuals around, so they truly feel loved.
BEST PRACTICE 3: Learning the love languages of individuals Again, everyone feels loved in a unique way, through one of the love languages more than others. In order to express Tangible Love, we need to learn the love languages of the individuals around us, so they truly feel loved by us.
These are specific steps you can take in order to grow in Tangible Love, gleaned from the lives of effective movement catalysts and my own spiritual experience:
Daily allowing God to love you
Living in your identity as God’s beloved
Seeing others with God’s eyes as God’s beloved
Praying for God’s love to be poured out
Learning the love languages of your host culture
Learning the love languages of individuals in your life
Taking action by faith, feelings will follow
Merry and loving Christmas!
In conclusion, writing about Tangible Love is not just a Christmas message. Tangible Love radiates from the very center of a catalyst’s daily life. It is indeed a Christmas message also. Let us apply the definition above to the person of Jesus, the initial catalyst of the global Christian movement, and his incarnate life on our planet: Jesus Christ (as an effective movement catalyst) “genuinely cared for the people he reached out to; he expressed love and genuine interest in their lives and welfare because he truly loved them.” He continues to do so today. And he desires to express his love to the people in your community – through your Tangible Love for them.
Let us follow his example. Let us love tangibly, as he has loved.
What Are Your Thoughts?
I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below! If you prefer to private-message me, you can use the contact form. Learn more about the other Catalytic Qualities besides Tangible Love in my new book Movement Catalysts. You can order your copy here!
If you found this helpful, please share this blog with your network!
Emanuel Prinz – Father’s Beloved & Movement Activist
Chapman, Gerry. 2015. The Five Love Languages. Woodmere, New York: Northfield Publishing.