By Michael Miller
Planned Acts of Christian Kindness opens a door for sharing the Gospel in ways that other methods struggle to provide, says founder Jeff Van Beaver.
Created by Jeff in 2002 and based in Green Bay, Wisconsin, PACK is the evangelistic method offered by Acts 1:8 Ministry. The idea is as simple as it is profound:
Unexpectedly do something kind for someone in a public venue. Pray with them. Give them something, no strings attached. When they ask why you’re doing it, tell them it’s because of Jesus.
Jeff was chairman of his church’s evangelism board in May 2002 when his pastor asked him to read Steve Sjogren’s Conspiracy of Kindness, a popular book that promotes servant evangelism. He wanted Jeff to see if the church could implement the philosophy behind it in some way. When Jeff read the book, he says, “it hit me that, yeah, the masses can do this.”
The first outreach his church tried along these lines was to offer to pray for people in a shopping mall parking lot.
“Individuals were just so blown away that they were receiving acts of Christian kindness that they were just opening up to prayer,” he says. “People were pouring out their problems.”
Until then, the congregation’s outreach was the traditional door-to-door type.
“What we found is that (door-to-door) is not as effective,” Jeff says. “People get beat up emotionally in the sense of having doors slammed in their face. It’s a very difficult evangelistic method and it’s very difficult to get people to say, ‘I’m all in on this,’ but it’s still the traditional method that a lot of church bodies are using. We’re saying that a much more effective way of opening the door to share the Gospel and connect people to Christ is to do a simple act of Christian kindness.”
The person on the receiving end of the kindness will typically ask why the giver is doing what he or she is doing.
“They’re skeptical, but they ask questions,” Jeff says. “That opens the door to sharing: sharing what Christ means to us, sharing the Gospel. So it’s a door-opener. People want to know that we care before they’ll open their hearts. It’s one of those critical factors with human relationships: Do we really care?”
Jeff didn’t intend to make the evangelism approach, which he called Planned Acts of Christian Kindness, or PACK, into a full-time gig.
“I ran my own tool company,” he says. “It was keeping me crazy busy in a good way.”
Then one July, Jeff received a vision in his sleep showing him that he was supposed to give away his million-dollar company that made “substantial profits.”
“A week later, a lady called me and said, ‘Do you know of anybody trying to get rid of a company?’” Jeff says. “I said, ‘You and I need to talk. It appears you’re the one that the Lord had in mind to take this.’”
Jeff sold the company to the Christian woman for $1. He and his wife, Tammy, trusted the Lord to provide as they began Acts 1:8.
“I think it was hard on my wife, of course, when you go from that security blanket of lots of money to nothing, but we never had a doubt,” Jeff says. “We moved forward, and God did provide. Still does, to this day 13 years later.”
That step of faith led to the creation of Acts 1:8. The PACK approach began to get a workout. Acts 1:8 developed equipping material for congregations and individuals to help them start their own PACK programs. It’s all still free upon request at acts18.org, which is entirely supported by donations. Besides the training materials, Acts 1:8 also offers staff support by phone, email, and social media.
The material includes how to get people involved, find funding, and create awareness in the community and media.
Acts 1:8 has now partnered with more than 2,000 churches in all 50 states and 43 countries, with PACK being practiced in places as diverse as Canada, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, Africa, and the Middle East.
“We have had less interest from Europe, but it’s a target area,” Jeff says. “We’re starting to make some penetration into areas like China now, so we’re excited about that.”
PACK has been used in a variety of ways. In the U.S., congregations have offered:
- Free gift-wrapping at Christmas.
- Free flowers for Valentine’s Day.
- $2 bills handed to people at gas pumps.
In one case, a church “bought down” gas one day when it was near $4 a gallon, paying 50 cents or so per gallon up to a set amount for customers.
There’s a definite difference between wealthy and poor countries in how PACK is used.
“Churches in third-world countries have a much more humbling approach, giving away the most basic things of life: food, water, shelter, and medical resources,” Jeff says.
The way in which the Gospel is shared through PACK is also different, he says.
“In the United States, we found it was ineffective to proclaim right away the Word of God,” Jeff says. “We found it was more effective when people asked on their own. But the opposite is true in the third world, where you proclaim it right away because people are more open to it, and it is more effective. The ones who don’t have much want to hear. The ones who have much don’t want to hear unless they ask.”
Acts 1:8 is a good resource not only for larger churches that already have outreach programs, but also for smaller churches that don’t have the staff to develop their own programs from scratch.
“We would be their support team to help them reach out,” Jeff says.
No matter how creative, though, a PACK outreach is still aimed at three things, Jeff says: “Caring through kindness, sharing the Gospel, and connecting people to Christ.”
“Care, share, connect.”