Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Christ's Church-Growth Strategy: Love

Too simplistic? Or right on?
Since Jesus said love was so important (the way nonbelievers recognize that we are His followers), why don't many seminaries conduct classes on how to love? It's hard to build a loving community in the midst of a skeptical pluralistic society.

Notwithstanding the plethora of church-growth methodologies, each with its seminars, conferences, videos and how-to manuals, the church in North America is hardly growing. Despite the visible success of the evangelical subculture, Christianity is having negligible impact on the culture at large. That's because we have given up on Jesus' radical ideal of love. The proliferation of denominations, the widening of the racial gap, the seemingly inevitable church splits have all convinced us over the years that "love one another" just doesn't work.

"There's nothing sweet and easy about community." Henri Nouwen

The John 13 foot-washing kind of love Jesus was talking about is, in fact, unworkable. It is impossible for us to love that way as a human strategy. It is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit--a miracle that nonbelievers can't help but notice. This kind of love is inherently attractive. The first-century church didn't have a detailed program for evangelizing the world--just lots of love for each other. The growing church could have split over the Jew/Gentile issue (Acts 15) but decided they were all in this together.

By the fourth century, love had been relegated to a place of lesser importance in favor of programs, buildings, and outreach efforts.

Church-growth strategies must be subjugated to investing sufficient time in building relationships. Individuals must struggle to learn to love each other. There is no simple one-size-fits-all answer.

What could happen if we put the priority on Jesus' command instead of our worship wars, denominational distinctives, and homogeneous congregations? Hopefully, everyone would know that we are Jesus' disciples by our love.
"All You Need Is Love" by J. Kevin Butcher. The Covenant Companion, May 2004 (Vol 93, No 5). Pages 18-21


At 11:43 AM, Blogger Steve Blakemore said...


Thanks for the two excellent posts. This one and the one below on evangelism in the early church. I know that these things get to the heart of your convictions and practices.

At 9:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

May of the blogs that you post do not impress as being loving. To the contrary, they seem to be very judgmental. How about starting here on the internet. How about al of us forgiving more and criticizing less.


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