Love is the model we are to use to show God's love to the world!
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had "need." Acts 2: 44-45
John 15, Romans 14, and Colossians 1
Colossians 1 gives us a template on how to be great Christians, individually, and a healthy, vibrant church, collectively. What is the template? Continue to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ, so God continues to pour out His grace so we can have peace in abundance. Imagine what your church would be like with these precepts put into action! This set of articles is designed to help you and your church with anything from wiping away some corrosion to fully revamping your church to be as Christ has called!
Faith, Hope, --will be found in the basics and exhibition of and effectivenessAfter many decades of conducting research with pastors and churches, we have synthesized a few points to help us keep, alive and well, the main component necessary for a useful and successful church. Of course, the main component is love. It is central to the Truth of our Lord. It is contagious, exciting, and inviting; and, it is essential to the human condition. The key factors that will help your church grow in numbers—Love and Gratitude. Consider these your musical scales or basketball drills. We must know Who we point to, what He has called us to be and do, and how we go about it. These are our Christian drills. If you really dig into John 15 and Colossians 1, you will have all you need to begin.
If your church is stagnating, losing ground, or losing members, you must seek the answers in prayer and The Bible. You must also know or relearn the drills—the prime precepts of what it means to be in Christ. These questions must be asked and answered: Who are we in Christ? How has His love, impacted us? What are we going to about that? With the pastor leading, the Church leadership must make the decision; this decision must be positively communicated to the congregation. The decision: we are to be as our name denotes—Christians, Christ-like—and, it is our responsibility to love like Christ.
Ask and answer this question honestly: How is your church's love and fruit?
How do I measure it? Read Galatians, Chapter Five, and First Corinthians, Thirteen carefully. Preach it, teach it, and see the response. If you and your people have really and fully experienced God's grace and forgiveness, there will be an atmosphere of the Fruit of the Spirit. That chief fruit is the temperament of love. There will be a desire to grow in Christ by His Word and faith; there will be a resulting kind-heartedness in interpersonal relationships. There will be a hunger for righteousness and a desire to serve God by serving others. It all comes down to the reality of our profession of faith that has taken hold and when we entrust our lives into God's loving care and empowerment. You will love like Jesus. You will go forth and be reflections of Him in your homes, churches, and communities. Of course, there are no perfect churches. There is always room for improvement. However, if a hunger for Christ is lacking, if a disposition of love is absent, you have a problem. The good news? There is a solution!
Be in prayer and explore Scripture on God's call. Below, I will lay out some practical ways we can turn our churches away from our fears and hurts to becoming what we are meant to be because of Christ. This will increase your church's vitality, outreach, and growth.
Some main points:
- Know that you are Loved! God loves us! Therefore, we can Love! Love confirms the legitimacy of Jesus! Love confirms the faithfulness of Jesus' followers! When we love, our action sheds the spotlight upon God as we are His visible, living lights; we can shine inside our homes, churches, neighborhoods, and the world. Know this: Whoever loves much, does much! Do you understand how much God loves you? Your spouse? Your family? Your co-workers? How much He so loves your church family? When you love much, you will do so much more in your life and in others' lives, too. Real, true love verifies the authenticity of Jesus' followers. This is also a template for the importance and value of friendships and for building a healthy church (1 Cor. 3; 1 John 4:7-12).
True love desires to seek and apply what God has to say with satisfaction back to Him; this gives us the real meaning in life. It will enable us to trust in our Lord and receive His call and principles; in so doing, we appreciate our fellow Christians, and of course, our family and others around us. Love is taking the initiative to build up and meet the needs of others without expecting anything in return. When we have the wrong idea and definition of love, it will adversely impose on all areas in our life. That is why 1 Corinthians 13 has half of the definitions of love in the negative. (Mark 12:30-31; Luke 10:27; John 13:31-35; 15:12-13, 17; 1 Cor. 13; Rom. 12:10; 13:8; 14:13; 1 Thess. 3:12; 4:9; 2 Thess. 1:3; James 2:14-26; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 3:22; 4:8; 23; 4:7, 11-12; 2 John 1: 5)!
Oh, the things we can do if only we acknowledge that God's love is real, and we can share that love, too!
- Be filled with Gratitude! This shows that love fills us; love becomes very tangible. Always give thanks to Christ! When we have gratitude for who He is and for what He has done for us, we can affect our churches' disposition. You can witness the disposition of an ungrateful church as it is often marked by division and strife. Churches full of gratitude tend to show love and positively impact the world.
To get the gratitude flowing, give thanks to God. Christ is the One we should honor. Be careful that this is not simply a conversational expression as we meet and greet. Our goal should be hearts full of gratitude that spills out in everything we do, not just in the way we greet each other. This is essential for our faith and practice, no matter what we have been through or have lost. Being thankful also helps us to hope, to forgive, and to live in joy as we reflect God's goodness. Without being thankful, we are ungrateful people—ingrates. This is an insult to God. Insulting God and having ungrateful hearts will lead to lives of self-inflicted misery and hopelessness. Regardless of what have or might obtain, our contempt veils the goodness of God. A church without gratitude is merely a club of dysfunction, strife, gossip, and even hate (Rom. 1:8; 7:1-6; 1 Cor. 1:14; Eph. 1:6; Philp. 1:3-4; Col. 1:12; 2:7; 3:15-17; 4:2).
Our authentic trust in Christ should show up as gratitude and lives well lived. We can easily do this when we see that we are rescued by Christ from sin and dysfunction. We can see what lies ahead for us in Heaven. We will want to extend that in our welcoming and relationships. Consider what we have at our disposal in Christ. What we have and what we will have are astonishing, and it is our joy now as well as our hope to come in eternity. When this trust in Christ and gratitude for Him is at work, your church becomes alive in the faith.
Real gratitude can only be built from one's authentic growth in Christ. We must be praising God for His grace. By His grace, we are under Him; we are not left to ourselves. The Word of God must be taught with enthusiasm in truth and in conviction with application. This helps people understand. The pastor, by example, explains how he grows in the faith, and he challenges others to do the same through practices like daily Bible reading, devotions, small-group fellowship, and discipleship.
- Be filled with Joy. We have God's outpouring into us, so we are content in Him. What we have in Christ is wondrous beyond our imagination. No one and nothing can take away our Lord's redemption--not Satan, not humans, or our circumstances. God's purpose is complete and will continue from our salvation into eternity with our relationships on earth and our relationship to Him forever. Joy is all about changing our mindsets and focusing on our relationships with God and others. It is about realizing God's perspective, the sovereignty of God, and that He is in control, even when life seems to be turned upside down and inside out. He is our confidence and patience to endure anything (John 17: 13-26; Luke 24:33-52; John 10:28; Rom. 6:9-10; Phil. 1:6; Heb. 7:24-25)!
Look what joy is: Joy is the contentment we have in Christ and the contagious vibrancy of the healthy church atmosphere. Joy is our trust in and obedience to the Lord. This trust and obedience leads to our inward confidence, contentment, and peace; this results in harmony with God and others. Such joy leads to rejoicing, gladdened hearts, optimism, and delight—all God working in us.
Joy is not a mood. Joy is not mere happiness or a fulfillment of pleasure (we may not be content and pleased at the time or with our situations). Rather, joy is hope, and it is our hope in Christ. It is no meager wish. Instead, joy is the unshakable confidence in our future in Christ. Imagine how this can build up your church and your families. Our vitality and love in our churches comes from knowing that Christ is in charge and caring for us collectively! This knowledge allows us to enjoy our relationship with Christ, His creation, others, and our circumstances with Him. Think about the definition of joy. It is a decision; we are called to "count it joy" in James, and this refers to declaring our situation as happy and fulfilling even when it is not (James 1:1-4; 1 Peter 4:12-19; Heb. 10:34).
Our pleasure comes from knowing He is in charge and cares for us! Christ will meet us in our deepest need, and we are complete in Him. Our response is to put Jesus first and let Him work in our lives. Joy will allow us to enjoy our relationship with Christ, His creation, and others, regardless of our circumstances, with an expression of delight and real, authentic happiness that comes from and with harmony with God and others (Psalm 32:7-9; Proverbs 15:13; John 21:17; 17:13; 2 Cor. 12:9; 1 Peter 4:13- 19; Heb. 10:34; 2 Pet. 1:5-7; 3:9; 3 John).
Joy helps us understand God's perspective and gives us the confidence and patience to endure anything. Be aware that our life of contentment is trapped between the walls of experiences and the ceiling of things we desire, while we tend to ignore the door of the Truth. Real joy is found in the practice of our faith. We are to enthusiastically show to those around us this joy and peace that are only found only in our Lord Jesus Christ (Psalm 34:1-8; John 3:29; 16:20-22, 24; 17:13; Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Thess. 5:18).
To be happy in our personal lives and in our church home, we first must seek to be holy (Neh. 8:10; Psalm 20:5; 32:7-9; 34:1-8; 51:12; Prov. 15:13; John 4:34; 15:11; 17:13; 2 Cor. 12:9; Phil. 4:10-20; 1 Thess. 5:18)!
- Have the Flow of the Holy Spirit! What does this mean? Is this a Charismatic or Pentecostal thing? No, it is a true Christian thing. Your love in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the source and flow of our Christian love--action, attitude, and application. We can positively impact our relationships, churches, and neighborhoods beyond our imagination and past our fears and hurts all because of Christ. As Christians, we have no excuses to be unloving or joyless for we have Christ dwelling within us (Rom. 5:5; Gal. 5:1-22; Col. 1:1-8)!
This is all about how we are bringing forth fruit. In Colossians, Paul uses the illustration that we are farmers of God's provision and gifts. He gives us the seeds to make the crops. How are we doing with those seeds of His Fruits, precepts, and opportunities? Are we experiencing drought or bumper crops? Is there a need for life-giving water, care, and cultivation? Are you being the weed killer to your own fruits (Gen. 1:28; Hos. 10:1; 14:7-8; Matt. 13:3-8, 31-32; Luke 8:11; John 14-15; Rom. 1:13; 15:30; Gal. 5; Phil. 1:11, 22; Col. 1:1-10)?
Keep in mind: We are chosen by love to love, by and for the love of Christ! He, by love, makes use of us--molding us, shaping us, and appointing us to be His orchards and fruit stands of nourishment that the Church must have to function and the world needs to see in action. The Christian and the Church collectively need the substance of Christ and His fruit flowing in us, interconnecting and ever over-supplying; this is what grows faith, families, and fellowship.
- Know that your People are Important! Yes, all of them. Sometimes, people in leadership positions (even pastors) forget those who contribute to the ministry. We don't forget because of uncaring attitudes or disrespect; sometimes, we are busy and overwhelmed. It is human nature to focus on ourselves and our needs in times stressful times. Our human tendency is to focus on the big names and big givers, the noisemakers, those in the limelight. We often forget the scores of people who do the tough work. (You're probably familiar with movie credits. Notice the few stars that get much notice and the hundreds who get very little.) In church and in life, we have to be more than ourselves.
Paul cuts across cultural barriers and arrogance; he commends publicly, acknowledging many. He shows us that no one in the Lord is unimportant! There are 27 names listed at the end of Romans who were Paul's friends and who helped him. Many of them--nine, in fact--were women. We should be careful to always be people who honor and acknowledge others! If your congregation numbers over 50 (as most do), it becomes difficult. However, you can have elders, small group leaders, members of the stewardship committee, etc., engage your people and your neighborhood. Consider this system of dividing your phone directory for designated and trained callers might call each member at least twice a year.
This is a testimony to the importance of personal relationships, of cooperation, (working together for a unified vision and purpose,) and the value of encouragement, and why Paul takes the time to list them with a little explanation! It has been said that the service we give to others is the rent we give to live on this earth!
- Be a Real Community. As Christians, we are together in community. A church is a community; all too often, we do not look like it. Our churches should reflect a team mentality as a church is never about being solitary or having personal agendas. We are to pool the gifts and resources of everyone for Christ's glory. He is the focus rather than seeing just one pastor, the elders, the volunteers, etc. When you read Paul's Epistles, you will see that he had a strong sense of community, togetherness, and cooperation; when we love one another, we prove and exhibit Christ (Matt. 12: 46-50; 18:19-20; John 1:12; 13:34-35; Acts 1:14.4:24; Eph. 1:1-2; Col. 1:1-2; Gal. 5:22; 1 John 2:10; 3:1,14-16).
Complete unity. This is what God calls us to as leaders of His Church so that we carry out His plans and accomplish His mission of reproducing communities of Christ-formed authentic disciples. We do this by equipping our people to know and teach Christ's redemptive reign as missionaries sent by God, to be authentic, and to visibly live and proclaim Christ's Kingdom to the world.
Our unity is the model we are to use to show God's love to the world, because our unity has an evangelistic intention and example! Our infighting--and often bitter divisions--destroy churches and create an extremely bad witness. When we do not live as we should, our unforgiveness becomes malice and grieves the Holy Spirit!
We should be clear on this. A healthy Christian is one who puts aside the malicious traits of an evil, sinful nature, and embraces others in love. What comes out of love is the release of our feelings of betrayal and hurt. Even when we do not feel like it. The Christian is called to model kindness, love, empathy, and compassion; out of these, forgiveness will flow. God wants us to get with it, to wake up, and seize the wonders and opportunities He gives us. An unforgiving attitude and its ugly rotten fruits will choke us off from His wonders (John 13:34-35; 15:13-17; Gal. 5:22; Phil. 1:23; 1 Thess. 4:17; 1 John 2:10; 3:14-16)!
How to pull this Loving Church off?
The plan to build a loving church is simple. Build up your faith by the Word and spiritual disciplines; then, commit ourselves to building each other up, also. Look at the example given us by the Early Church in Acts 2: 44-45. "All the believers were together and had everything in common. y sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need." That is the formula! We are to be together, helping one another.
The fruit of love that we are called to produce comes from the fruit of holiness. 'Holiness' means to be separated unto God for His purpose and glory as Israel was. It lives in the present as it looks outward to others. When we are a part of a church, we are a part of Christ working together; we are serving Him. It is not about our wants, needs, preferences, what we have done, or what we want to do. We show our authenticity in Christ when by what do for Him, working together, loving, and being faithful; this is service. We need to take the initiative, as Christ did with us, and operate in the Fruit of the Spirit and brotherly love.
Keep in mind, the Fruit of the Spirit is the result of the Holy Spirit working in us, producing His love that flows in and out of us! It can't be counterfeited for long, and it cannot be forced. It comes from the result of our relationship with Christ, and it produces faith, commitment, trust and obedience. The further result is the endeavor for moral purity and virtue (Jos. 24:19; Hab. 1:13; Mark 12:28-31; John 3:16; 1 Cor. 13; Rom. 5:2; Gal 5:5, 19-22; Eph. 1:1-4; 2:8; Tit. 1:2; James 2:14; 1 Pet. 1:3, 15; Heb. 2:12-18; 1 John 3:14; 4:7-21)
These Fruits are the seeds that produce a loving Church and a society affluent in character and care—the real and true wealth. We must ask as Paul did, "What holds us back in this?" Of course, sin. But, which sins and influences keep you from spiritual growth? Why does your church not do as it is called in holiness and care? What about you personally? Until we know this, we will be stunted in the mature development of our faith. The book of 1 Peter is all about pursuing holiness, and it gives encouragements and instructions on this much-needed Christian endeavor. Make a commitment to read it fully and carefully! Then, make the commitment to apply it to your life and church (Rom. 7:1-6)!
To become a loving and effectual church, it all comes down to our collective faith that springs from our growth and intimacy in Christ.
We are given faith, and we make more. This trust rests and looks to God for what He has done. When this is so, we are excited and joyful in Christ; we will pour out the love that He pours in and through us. If you are not growing, you are like a "wannabe" rock musician. You may have an expensive guitar and the wear the "costume". You might even have the sound system, mics, and lights; but, you can't carry tune and you only know four chords. What would your concert sound like? Annoying noise. First Corinthians 13, verse 1, tells us, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." Yes, without our growth in Christ, we are just an annoying noise. See the preface in First Corinthians, Chapter 3, about "fed with milk, not solid food," with only "jealousy and strife" to come about.
Are you a church of annoying noise or are you one of authenticity, effectual love?
© 2017 R.J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org/