Which is most important in the church you lead or attend? A) Living out the Great Commandment (Mark 12:30-31) B) Living out the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) C) Neither D) Both
It might seem rather obvious and elementary that Christians should follow the main two teachings of Jesus. However, if we are honest with ourselves and think objectively about the churches we lead or attend, we might realize that we have room to grow when it comes to loving God, loving people, or fulfilling the Great Commission to make disciples. In fact, some seemingly successful churches have gotten so caught up in the numbers game that their focus is not on loving people nor making disciples; their focus is on running services and programs that bring people in to fill the seats and pay for the facilities.
This analysis might seem rather crass and perhaps even a bit offensive to many of us but our purpose is not to offend but to provoke us all to think honestly and objectively about the priorities of our churches. After all, the Apostle Paul tells us that church leaders who are building up God’s church should “build with care.” (1 Cor. 3:10) So think about the church you lead or attend. Is your church known for their love for God and for people? Is the congregation known for their love for one another and for their expressions of love towards their neighbors and their community? Are they known as being disciple-makers who are out in the community telling people about Jesus and seeing lives transformed by His touch?
Honest answers to questions like these tell us much about our churches. They tell us if we are on course or if we need to make some adjustments to come back into alignment with God’s vision for the church. And yes, God does have a vision for your church and every other Christian church. His desire is that His people would be so in love with Him that they would be like Him. His vision for your congregation is that every person would be a member of His Body, an extension of Himself, literally His hands and feet and voice that demonstrate His love to people everywhere. And as we go through life, living and loving for Jesus’ sake, we are to make disciples who obey His teachings.
That’s it. It’s simple. God’s will for His church is really not that complex or hard to understand. But in many cases we have made it way more complicated than it has to be. We have added a clergy system and formal education requirements that have crippled His Body and put all the work on the shoulders of a select few. We have bought into secular leadership ideas and organizational principles that are not in the Bible and are in fact sometimes contrary to what Jesus taught. We have focused on building facilities and programs instead of building up the Body of Christ. It’s time that we get back to loving God, loving people, and making disciples. Most of us haven’t abandoned these goals; we have just been distracted a bit. In fact, there are many good churches that endeavor to do these very things. But even the best churches can become sidetracked by the issues of life and the world around us. We are all human, none of us are perfect yet, and we are all in the process of becoming more like Jesus and more in alignment with His will for our lives. So let’s think honestly and objectively about how we can be more aligned to God’s vision for His church.
Take, for example, the multitude of churches that are known for their love for God. They have powerful prayer ministries, many passionate worship nights, and vibrant Bible studies. Their pursuit of God is commendable and many are blessed as they seek to know God more and grow in Him. But what about loving their community? What about making disciples? Often churches such as this will indeed put their love for God into action by loving people and making disciples. However, since we are all human and still in the process of becoming like Jesus, we can sometimes become so in love with spending time with God in our sanctuaries that we fail to get out in the community to love people or make disciples.
Other churches, though, do a great job of loving people. They are out in the community, caring for the poor, being salt and light in their schools and workplaces, making a stand for righteousness, doing all sorts of things to show God’s love to people. They are in fellowship groups and home groups and live life together by sharing their possessions as well as their needs. They are busy people who are doing God’s work and ought to be commended. But churches like this have to be careful as well. Sometimes we can spend so much time loving people that we fail to spend time loving God. Or we can love people from the heart but still fall into the trap of doing everything for them instead of challenging them to give their lives to Jesus and become His disciples.
And what about “missional” churches? They often do a great job of “being on mission” and focusing on bringing people to Christ and making disciples. Being intentional about fulfilling the Great Commission becomes their calling card and they will frequently bear much fruit in terms of making disciples and multiplying churches and discipleship groups. Again, there is much to be commended! But we have to be intentional about loving people or we will leave wounded folks as collateral damage in the wake of our ambition. And just as importantly, we have to be careful that we don’t sacrifice our prayer times and even our relationship with God on the altar of missional success.
So then, as we think about our churches, let’s rejoice in our strengths. But let’s not stop there. Let’s examine our weaknesses as well. Let’s compare what we are doing to what the New Testament teaches. Let’s think about what Jesus might say to us if He were to come and give us a report card like He did to the churches in the book of Revelation (Rev. 2:1-3:22).
Let’s Pray Together:Lord Jesus, YOU are the Lord of the Church. We need YOU to come and show us how to live and how to do church the way that YOU want it done rather than the way that we want to do it. Deliver us from worldly ambitions and success based upon appearances, attendance numbers, and finances. Bring us into alignment with YOUR will for YOUR church. Help us to care more about being successful in YOUR eyes rather than in the eyes of men. Help us, Lord, in these ways that I bring before You now…..(continue praying as you feel led)
Questions to Think About or Discuss:
What are the strengths of my church, the church that I lead or attend?
What are the weaknesses of my church?
How is my church doing when it comes to loving God?
How is my church doing when it comes to loving people?
How is my church doing when it comes to making disciples?