We are starting a new thing at church with the hope of further knitting our hearts together as a local, visible manifestation of the body of Christ here in Union County. It’s called LEAF Night. I’d like to take some time in this post to explain the acronym and goals of the function. To start we’ll hold a LEAF Night at our home two nights a month. The nights will vary to accommodate the variety of schedules in our church. My hope is that every member of the church will attend at least one LEAF Night each month. It will be an informal time where we have opportunities to love, equip, act, and fellowship.

LEAF Explained

LEAF is an acronym that stands for Love, Equip, Act, and Fellowship. These terms are biblical, yet jargon words and warrant some explanation. There is overlap and outflow in these terms. For example love cannot be discerned without acts and so acts flow from love. Equipping and fellowship overlap because, biblically speaking, fellowship when we hold the biblical truth in common—fellowship is a function of things held in common—we will build each other up in the holy faith. Admittedly, there’s a lot of gimmick to the acronym, but we also want to focus on these things.

Love. Jesus commanded his disciples to love one another, saying that it is the mark of a true disciple of Jesus Christ (John 13:34–35). But what does it mean to love as Jesus teaches? What does it look like? Certainly there is more to loving each other than saying it. Again, the text of Scripture informs us:

1 Cor 13:1–8:   If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

We know then that there is a kindness and a patience to biblical love, there is a certain demeanor and attitude. Love seeks the best in its object. But must use caution in defining what best looks like, however, for in our romanticized and sentimentalized culture, one’s effort to love another can fall far short and be mere flattery. Biblical love also confronts, as I’ve written recently. Accordingly, we want to gather together as a body of Christ for the specific purpose of displaying love for one another. This desire may be manifested at LEAF nights in conversations that seek to minister love to one who is hurting, build a common affinity in how God is working in the circumstances of life, or even confront sin and work toward restoration.

Equip. The word equip means generally to supply with the necessary tools for a particular purpose. In the Bible the word is used to explain the purpose for which God gives specifically gifted leaders to the church. Ephesians 4:11–12 says, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” My role as a shepherd and teacher of the congregation over which God has made me overseer (cf. Acts 20:28) is to teach and preach to God’s people so that they may do the work of the ministry. That is accomplished in more places and times than Sunday mornings at our gathering location. And while the word translated “equipped” in Ephesians 4:12 is used just once there, other words in the New Testament are translated “equip” that contribute to our thinking for LEAF nights. Second Timothy 3:16–17 says that the Scriptures are meant to equip God’s people for every good work. This being the case, when we gather for a LEAF night, we want to seek to talk about the Scriptures in such a way that we are equipped to do the work of the ministry, good works for Christ.

Act. The word “act” represents the biblical concept of good deeds or good works. I recently finished preaching through the book of Titus where the phrase “good works” appears four times. It’s a theme that Paul thinks is important in light of the truth of the gospel. The ground of the good deeds is not in any righteousness that is our own, as though we do good deeds to earn merit before God. Rather, the ground of any good deeds is the appearance of the grace of God that has brought salvation to all people without distinction—young or old, male or female, rich or poor, free or slave. That grace teaches us to deny ungodliness. That grace is none other than the person of Jesus Christ who gave himself to make a people for himself who are zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:14). Our time together each month might be spent, therefore, planning other events where we can show acts of kindness and good deed. Or it might be testifying of opportunities we’ve taken to show others the love of Christ in our daily lives.

Fellowship. Fellowship is a word we use often, but not always in the biblical sense. I’m not saying we use it unbiblically, we use it non-biblically. For LEAF nights, we intend both the colloquial sense of fellowship and the biblical sense of fellowship. That is, in the biblical sense we want to enjoy the common faith that we share, we want to hear how God is teaching us about the faith, about our sin, about what is means to live for Christ. We also want to simply have fun, we want to enjoy life together, laugh together, play games together, eat food together in the hopes of deepening our relationships both spiritually and emotionally. We want to just be around each other.

Simply put, LEAF nights will be times outside our regular weekly gathering when the church gets together to build each other up in the faith relationally. It’ll be informal. I won’t be teaching or preaching to the group. My prayer is that this will be a fruitful time to love one another and, as Hebrews 10:24 says, provoke one another to love and good works. Keep an eye on the church calendar! Will you join us?