Aren’t the two greatest commandments opposed to each other?
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Matt 22:37-38
So… who are you meant to love? God or others?”
These “two” commands are really one command. Notice how Jesus says, “The second is like it”. Have you ever thought about what he says there? How exactly is the second greatest command like the first?
I reckon (haha) that these commands are dependant on each other.
If you want to love God, then you’ll love his humans. How do you love humans? You love them… like God loves us.
1John 3 says that doesn’t it… “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”.
So what does it look like to “love God”? It looks like loving other people; being self-sacrificing.
What does it look like to love other people? It looks like helping them to love God with all their heart, soul, mind.
When you invest your life into someone; as a pastor, mentor, friend, helper, brother – you’re loving one person — just one — in many ways. Many many ways. Time, meals, prayer, hugs, bible-reading together, the works.
But by doing that, you’re implicitly choosing NOT to love many people. As finite, limited, time-bound creatures, we just can’t love many people in many ways.
But, we do find ourselves loving many people in a few ways; preaching, leading prayers, teaching scripture, uploading the sermon for other people, photocopying the outlines. All these activities love many people, sometimes 100s or 1000s of people. But they only love them in a few ways. They’re not holistic expressions of love, but they are expressions of love non-the less.
1. A body of people can love each other in many ways when they all take care of loving the many in a few ways (sounds very 1Cor12 right?)
2. Most (but not all) “loving-many-in-a-few-ways” are formal ministry roles. Most (but not all) “loving-few-in-many-ways” are informal ministry roles.
3. Have you thought about how many you’re loving in a few ways? Or who you’re loving in many ways?
This should be obvious, but it’s good to keep in your head when people just want you to agree with them. Love does not mean agreement. You can love someone and disagree with them. You can disagree with them about very very significant things. You can even hate the thing they love, but you can still love them.
There’s a likelihood that they won’t feel loved. But… and here’s the important thing… the amount they feel loved is not the measure of your love.
But, if you don’t agree with them just because you don’t like them… that’s not love.
One of our Staff Team Values is that we love joking around. We love laughing, jokes, sarcasm and generally hanging out together. That hasn’t happened by chance… it’s something we’ve worked hard to protect.
But there’s a type of joking we don’t tolerate. Its the type of joking where you use humour to veil a serious frustration or complaint about someone else. It’s the type of humour where the butt of the joke is left feeling unsure whether people think something terrible about them. Using humour to thinly veil your issues or frustrations towards someone is cowardice.
The flip side of this deeply entrenched value is that when someone does make a joke about you, you can be sure they are never trying to hurt you… they’re really trying to love you.
Striving for doing things well (quality) is neither good or bad, but it can be done for good or bad reasons.
It’s not good to make things quality for quality’s sake. Neither to make you look impressive, or to make other people feel ashamed in comparison.
But it is good to do things quality because you love the people you’re doing it for. Quality, well rehearsed plans, and beauty are all ways of loving people. A quality sound system makes it easy to hear the speaker and avoids the ear-curdling squeaks. A quality welcoming process will always miss some people, but it will always help more people than a shoddy system.
Yes, some Christians and churches just seem to want to do things because they look cool. But maybe they’re not as shallow as you assume, maybe they just have a greater love for people than you’re aware of.
Welcome people well by telling them what their next step “in” would look like.
You know your church. Your regulars know your church. But the new person doesn’t. So, you can’t just assume they’re going to find their way in to the community and life of the church. In fact, not telling them is quite unloving.
So it might be worth describing it for them, help them picture the type of thing they’d choose to do next to step into the church family.
It might look something like, “Look, we’d love you to make this your church, but that can be a really vague decision, can’t it. Most people either stumble into church families, or they don’t. If you wanted to start making that decision yourself, I reckon the next step for you would be to sign up, and come along to…”
There seems a common argument that small churches are – not just a valid alternative, but – a better alternative to big churches. Some of the arguments go…
- Myth: “Small-churches are more needy… Big churches have heaps of people!”
Really? This is an argument that small churches are “better”?!? From a church-leader’s point of view, surely you’d want to be in the less needy option?
But there’s an error in this perception about “neediness”… Big churches are in fact more needy that small churches. Big churches have more programs, more people, more gaps that need filled, more budget that needs to be met. They might not be as visible, but they are much greater. It’s like saying that a sparrow’s body is more needy than your body… because it doesn’t have a fridge. No. Your body needs more than the sparrow’s. The fact you have a fridge is a right reflection of that.
So, the large-church is harder to lead and it has more needs.
- Myth: “There’s no room for exceptions in big-churches”
Really? I’d say this is true of all church sizes, and just displays itself in different ways. If the ESL family arrives in a small church, and there’s no-one with gifts or time to welcome them and pastor them well, there’s no room for the exception they bring. However, in a large church, there’s a greater chance of already having people who have those gifts and time and can invest in that family. In fact, there’s a greater chance that you’ll have a structure or program especially set-up for those exact type of people. Its a simple fact that the bigger your church, the more “types” of people you can welcome better.
What about people who just don’t fit the mould? Again, I would suggest that the small church has just as much problem with these people as the big church does. A small church will usually handle the issue through one person (or family) bearing the full weight of responsibility to look after that person. A large church will try to encourage that person into existing structures that are slightly modified to suit their issues. Both options have pros and cons; the small church looses one of the their best people for (sometimes) years as they look after that person. The big church can struggle to modify existing structures enough.
But… I don’t mean this to sound unloving, but… in my experience, even after years of faithfully loving the “don’t fit the mould” people, many of them deep down just like the attention they get and resist changing and self-sacrifice for the sake of others and the church. It can regularly end up with one church member who’s very very exhausted after years of loving the “don’t fit the mould” person, and the “don’t fit the mould” person leaves to find another small church where they’ll get the one-on-one attention they want.
- Myth: “Only certain people can “do” big church – like extroverts. Introverts need small churches.” (here)
- Myth: “Small churches grow faster” (here)
- Myth: “Small churches see more conversion growth” (here)
The difference between being in ‘sales’ and being in ‘ministry’ is heartbreak.
See, if I’m trying to sell you something, it’s because I get a commission, or it’s my job – get paid to help you want something (usually want something enough to buy it). If you decide to say “no”, it’s disappointing, and it may even be frustrating. I might have wasted heaps of time on one customer and never make the sale. I may even feel insecure about my ability. But that’s all.
On the other hand, if I’m doing personal follow-up at church, or inviting someone to a series like LIFE, or simply just trying to help someone see the majesty of Christ they should be living for… If they decide to say “no”, I would still experience all those things above (disappointment, frustration, insecure, etc). But, I will also experience heartbreak.
Because Christian ministry is motivated by love, it also has the potential to hurt. A lot. In fact, the more I cultivate love for you (which drives me to say certain things and do certain things) the more I open myself up to be heartbroken when I see you turn away from Jesus, continue in sin, make stupid decisions that will affect your relationship with Jesus and others.
Ministry is an investment of Jesus-inspired-love in people. We invest more than our time, energy, mind… we invest our heart. And so you can’t invest your heart into people without expecting to be heartbroken. When that happens, refill your heart with Jesus’ love and go love some more.
The parable of the Good Samaritan might better be titled the parable of the unloving Jews. For that’s what is highlighted as three wannabe “righteous” Jews come into proximity with a man who needs help, and they avoid him.
But realise, had they not been travelling that road that day, or even at that time, they would not be condemned for their failure to act. That is, it was their proximity to this fallen man that brought upon them the opportunity to do good, to love. And in the same way, it was their proximity to this man that brought upon them the sin of failing to do as a loving neighbour ought.
Love thy neighbour, at the very least, means love the one you’re with.
I think this has massive implications for church families and growth groups. These are people you are with – whether you choose to be with them or you were placed with them, they are your neighbours, they are the ones you are with – both in proximity and in regularity.
This doesn’t mean we ignore loving at a distance, there’s heaps in the bible to show Christians do that, but we mustn’t fall into the trap of the Pharisees who ignored their real and present opportunities to love.
Who has God put in your path to love?
It’s really important that we separate disagreeing from devaluing. Being disagreed with does not mean that we’re being devalued.
Just because my boss doesn’t agree with me, that doesn’t mean he devalues me. Just because a husband decides against his wife’s advice that doesn’t mean he devalues her. In fact, the Father doesn’t even devalue the divine Son when, after the Son says “take this cup from me”, the father implicitly says “no”.
The issue is that disagreement is something we can see, but devaluing is something we can’t see because it happens inside people’s hearts. We can’t see whether other people are devaluing us or not. Therefore, we should never accuse someone of devaluing us, because there’s no way of proving it. You can ask them, but that’s all you can do.
If they say, “No way!! I totally value you. I just don’t agree with you on this point” then you have to take their word for it. That also means we should attempt to stop feeling devalued because that feeling isn’t based on anything real, we’ve just been disagreed with.
A very cool website was recently launched: http://divineinspiration.com.au/
I’m not a designer. I somehow ended up as a student with FEVA – a great bunch of Christians trying to evangelise students in visual arts and design degrees. I married a designer. I really don’t think I care that much about how things look.
But that’s a fool’s point of view.
Just because I don’t care, doesn’t mean others don’t care, and it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.
And more importantly, I do care. Everyone cares how things look. It affects them in ways they don’t even realise. Design matters to humans. God made us with the ability to see that things are pleasing to the eye (Gen 1:9).
Designing things well is an act of love. It rightly springs out of a desire to help people read, understand, be motivated, care, engage, etc.
sure, like everything design can be used in bad ways or with bad motives. But don’t use that to deny that design should rightly spring from a Christian desire to love people in just another way.
Some Christians just want quality for quality’s sake, or they think we need to match the world around us. Some Christians are wary of quality because they think its about manipulating feelings and that its all smoke a mirrors. But the true motivation for Christians and churches doing things well is love.
Doing things with a high degree of quality is part of making sure people don’t fall through the cracks. If you don’t welcome people to church “well” (read “with a certain degree of quality”) they won’t know how to connect. If you don’t run the Sunday meeting well, they won’t know what’s going on. If you don’t ask for feedback cards or follow them up, or run evangelistic courses well, people will fall through the cracks.
But some people will say something like, “But you don’t need to exert effort to make these things quality, you don’t need to create quality systems and programs… The Christians at church can do a quality job just on their own. You don’t need feedback cards if the individuals are just loving the new people.”
Yep, and who’s going to train them to do a quality job?
And who’s going to oversee that, when 30% of your congregation is new? Surely they need to do a quality job?
Can you see how that same love that starts with wanting to look after people, as the number of people grow and the number of people to love grows, requires and motivates love-fuelled quality in Christian ministry?
Asking people about sin in their life is hard. Its awkward, beat-around-the-bush, so-how-you-going-in-that-area, vague conversation.
But that’s very rarely helpful or loving for people.
Because Jesus didn’t die for vague “areas” of sin. Jesus died for each and every specific sin we do (as well as our entire attitude of rebellion). In prayer, we don’t just repent for vague sins, we repent of specific time-and-date sins.
So, out of love for your brothers and sisters, press through the awkwardness (that satan creates), and move from vague areas of sin to specifics. “When was the last time you…?” “How long has it been since…?” “What did you actually say to her?” “Exactly how many drinks did you have?”
For some people (most by experience) they haven’t thought about these details them-self, and its only as they put words to their own actions that they begin to realise the depth of sin they’re caught in.
Love them by asking hard specific questions, but also be careful you don’t become their preist!!