Today in our staff meeting we discussed an article about getting our love back for our church. Sometimes we go through difficulties at church. We get our feelings hurt. We miss opportunities. We resemble a family. Dysfunction enters the fray. Therefore, at the suggestion of some staff members, I want to share with you what we shared at staff. This article id primarily addressed to leaders, but it also applies to anyone who concerns themselves with the minor irritations of getting along.
Having been in ministry for over 30 years, I understand. The church is sometimes not easy to love. People claim to be Christian but act like the devil. We say the words, “I love the church” while knowing our heart isn’t there. When you’ve had enough bad days in ministry, love for the church seems to disappear completely.
Still, though, we’re called to love one another (John 15:12). Here are some ways to begin reigniting that love:
Read 1 Corinthians. In 1 Cor. 1:4 Paul wrote, “I always thank my God for you” (HCSB). In the last verse of that book, he wrote, “My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus.” In between these sections, however, the apostle essentially said, “You’re an absolute mess.” Paul thanked God for and deeply loved one of the messiest churches in the New Testament. That’s a good model for us to follow.
Read the Gospel of Mark to see the portrayal of Jesus’ disciples. They were untrained and uneducated men who often did not listen, seldom fully understood, and sometimes failed miserably. Meanwhile, they debated who was the greatest and fought over the best seats in the kingdom. Still Jesus loved them – and we must love our church folks who are often quite like them.
Check your heart. Sin still haunts us, even as church leaders. Sometimes we hold bitterness as an idol. Be honest: we’re not always lovable ourselves. Nevertheless, even those who know us best still love us. We owe to the church the patient love that others give us.
Take a vacation. Sometimes our lack of love for others is really just fatigue. The little things get magnified when we’re tired. Frustration sets in. Love gets strained. Take a break to recover and replenish, and you might find yourself more open to loving your congregation.
Take some folks on a mission trip. Get away from the day-to-day grind of church work while also taking the gospel to the nations. Something unique often happens among a team of believers on the mission field. Get them to focus on those who need to hear the good news instead of on themselves, and you will likely see them as more lovable.
Hang out with a few members who want to grow. Loving the church is not possible without loving a few. Rather than trying to immediately love the whole Body again, focus on a few. Find some believers who are open, and invest in them. It’s amazing how just a few healthy relationships can change your perspective about the whole church.
Get a vision about something in the church. Ask God to help you concentrate on one area of the church’s ministry that most motivates you. Just as focusing on a few believers can be helpful, finding that one area can begin to reignite your love for the church. An outward focus just does that: it takes your eyes off self, and renewed love often follows.
Seek reconciliation with that person. Whether we recognize it or note, one sour relationship can color the way we feel about an entire congregation. Maybe it’s time to say something like, “I’m sorry,” “please forgive me,” or “I fear you have something against me, and I want to fix it.”
Keep doing ministry. When your love for your church is strained, withdrawal is not the answer. Nor is laziness or disobedience. Real love demands that we continue to serve the church even when we don’t feel like it. Be faithful in doing loving ministry for your church, and you might find your heart catching fire for them again.
At the heart of most of these suggestions lies the need to put others first and get self out of the way. Self denial is tough. Yet, provides the cure for a whole host of problems, particularly personal relationship problems. Hat tip (Thom Rainer)
Long time ago a church I pastored for 7 years enthusiastically requested I remind them of our vision from time to time. I learned a prized lesson that day, much like a pearl of great price. We live in a frantic, earth shaking world that seeks to steal our souls and knock us off a glorious course. It helps to pin a mission and vision before our eyes so that our internal compass keeps north. Therefore, with this principle in mind, I once again want to lift my pastoral vision before you.
This vision I believe represents something not tailor made for our church, but provides a birds eye view of God's purpose, until we can hit the ground on our own and see the details as we work them out together in ministry.
First, I must redundantly remind us of a couple of essential definitions. The Church Universal should adhere to the same mission-to make disciples of all people. Vision, when we together own it, becomes the road map for our church that directs us toward the Great Commission. Vision literally means, "to gaze at." What we gaze at, dream about, see in our imagination, can move us collectively toward the fulfilling of the mission.
With these truths in mind I suggest that our own vision consists of involving every member in celebration (worship), care (caring for one another), and calling (hearing and responding to God's call upon our lives top use our gifts for the purpose of advancing the Kingdom ). It's that simple.
There is an old saying that declares "if we can see it, we can have it." I see it. I hope you're beginning to see it to.