Sunday, January 16, 2011

When the core value of church is LOVE

Sometimes, the best way to blog is to put up a great photograph and then respond to it via text. This pic is a fine example. (Photo courtesy of Julie Hellman)

These folk comprise 6 of the 8 members of the First Presbyterian (Brandon) "Visioning Team". Left to right it's Kelly, Ben, Tim, Rebekah, Mary-Ann, and Bill. Not pictured are Bill - that's another Bill, we have a lot of those - and then John.

The occasion was a dinner to celebrate five-plus years of creative, focused, spirit-directed work together. Someone brought a fruit sculpture to the party and - are we at all surprised? - frivolity ensued.

Bottom line, and I'm sure you can tell, these people love one-another.

You see, a huge rule on my heart when it comes to being The Preacher's Husband is this: Pray hard that love becomes the defining characteristic of the church where you serve.

Love. Not sound doctrine, not great programing, not mission and outreach, not an awesome youth group, not a state of the art children's ministry, not evangelism, not the best music program in town... not even (see my previous post) a cutting-edge men's ministry.

All of these things are great. But the best of the best of the best ("with honors!") is when the definitive value of the particular body of believers where your spouse works is LOVE.

Jesus, of course, said it best, in Matthew 22:
  • Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” 
When love is primary, then everything else is more likely to fall in place:
      The law? Done; we've got that taken care of, thank you very much.
      The teachings of the prophets? Followed to a "t".
      Anything else of value on the "must do" list? Covered, as it were, by love.

That Jesus certainly knew what he was talking about. In fact, Jesus must have been thinking along the same lines as David, one of our elders, who shared words to this effect with the congregation this morning:

"I served as an elder once before, at another church", he said. "And I swore I'd never do it again. You see, Jesus was always secondary to personal agendas, infighting and power plays. However, when I was asked to serve here, I realized I would be serving a congregation defined by love."

Other outgoing elders had similar testimonies to share. It seems that many people have a negative experience when they serve on the governing board of a church. Rather than being part of a Christ-centered ministry-team, their tenure is a miserable conglomeration of politics and committee work and turf wars - and they swear they'll never to do it again. That doesn't happen in a congregation where the core value is love.

- So, do we ever have problems here at First Presbyterian (Brandon)? Most certainly.
- Is everyone happy, and are all our church members perfect? Not on your life!
- Do we still need to experience redemption, forgiveness, healing and (always) more spiritual growth? You'd better believe it!

But, this is a culture grounded in the truth of Matthew 22. Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself; love to the very core of who you are. Then, everything else of any value at all will fall into place.

"Word!".... DEREK


  1. Great "Word!" this. Going to share it with my new church as they consider new directions and "strategies" - seems like this should be the foundation for all...a "congregation defined by love".

  2. The foundation for releasing ministry that becomes "cutting edge" must be love or it becomes, uh, a dull ax needing grinding... Love as motive - love that gives grace - love that encourages perseverance after fourteen failed attempts - that's what church is about.