Recently I read an article by Hal Seed (accessed here http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/a-pastor-s-heart/20700-10-reasons-why-i-love-my-church on February 13, 2014).
In it he writes, “A quick read of the book of Acts or the letters in Revelation proves that Jesus loves his church. He died for it, prays for it, lives for it and is going to return for it.
[But] let’s be honest: It’s not easy to love the church. It’s easy to love Jesus. Loving His bride is another story. Churches are filled with frail and fault-riddled people. Every church has a unique personality. All are loved by Jesus, but not all are loved in equal measure by each of His people.”
I love my church. And by “church” I mean “the one holy Christian and apostolic church,” “The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod,” the four churches that I have served as a pastor (Christ, White Cloud, MI, St. John, Mayville, WI, Redeemer, Ontario, CA, and St. Matthew, Hawthorn Woods, IL), and the churches of which I was a member before I become a pastor (St. Paul, Round Lake, IL, Good Shepherd, Lake Villa, IL, Messiah, St. Louis, MO, and St. John, Arnold, MO).
I agree, loving Jesus is so much easier than loving His bride, the Church. But just like the love of a spouse in marriage, love of the church is more a choice than a feeling.
Based on Hall Seed’s ten reasons that he loves his church, I have ten reasons that I choose to love Jesus’ bride, the Church. They are in no particular order – this is not a ranked list. This week, reason number one:
1. This is not about us.
There is a reason every single church exists. But the reality is not every single church lives – or even knows – this reason. However, that doesn’t change the fact that Christ establishes every congregation of the “one holy Christian and apostolic church” for a reason. Ultimately, that reason is to “go and make disciples of all nations.”
Congregations get into trouble when they forget this. The life of the church isn’t about “us” – it’s about “all nations.” Or to put it another way, the Church exists to love God and to love our neighbors.
When that doesn’t happen, a church can be considered “dying.” Because if the focus is on ourselves and our needs then our focus is on someone who is not alive.
St. Paul puts it this way, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
Instead, we need to focus on the living God and the people He sent His Son to save.
As a disciple of Jesus, we are called to be reflective light in this world. We shine, but not with our own light. We shine with the light of Jesus Christ. Much in the same way the moon shines at night – not by its own light but by reflecting the light of the sun.
The Church is filled with disciples of Jesus and we need to reflect the Son’s light by loving God and loving our neighbors.
If we make Church about us, we’re shining the light on ourselves for ourselves. Much like a church that illuminates its stained glass windows from the outside. We make it so we can see ourselves but the world doesn’t see much of anything. Our attitude should be to have the light shining from the inside out. In other words, for all the world to see.
Next week, we’ll take a look at a church that is incredibly fruitful.