I have a friend who was a former church planter, a pastor of a local church he started. We became friends years ago — still are — and for a long while he was an aggressive advocate for bringing my family to his church. We visited once, but that was all.
A couple years ago the church elders fired my evangelist friend. There was a brutal uprising, and my friend was let go. It decimated him. He’s now working a commission job. The last time we talked, there was an emptiness in his eyes. I’m not sure there is much faith left.
I wish I had had the courage to tell him years ago why I didn’t like his church. It was because I felt God was not present. I bet he would have vehemently disagreed with me at the time, but to me, that was the ugly truth.
Today, I dare say this: God is not in many churches. This often upsets church leaders when I bring it up with them. But to me, there is a serious sore spot in church culture that should be considered most important.
I’m in ministry, so I have many friends who are pastors and church leaders. A lot of them would love for my family to attend their congregation, and I sometimes entertain the idea. But there is usually a profound hole in the churches I visit. There is no love.
And where there is no love, there is no God (John 13:35). Love is what’s missing.
I sometimes give them a challenge to investigate. It’s a little test of mine. I ask them how often they or their church have sermons on love. “Look on your webpage that lists the sermons of last year,” I challenge them. “Do a CTRL-F and tell me how many times you find ‘love’ in the search.”
“That’s not fair,” one pastor friend recently told me. “My church has love threaded throughout our sermons, and just because ‘love’ isn’t in the title doesn’t mean it’s not there.”
I let off and didn’t press it. Perhaps he was right. I suppose it is possible to be full of love without having the actual word in the titles.
The pulpit is used to encourage the body of believers to “think upon these things” (Philippians 4:8). Whatever a church chooses to center on, that’s typically what sermons and bible studies and small group discussions revolve around. Lots of great and noble things will fill a church’s lessons every week.
I’m not dishing other things. I’m just asking why LOVE is not front and center. I think this is a fair question.
How Important Is Love?
Love is not just a passing Christian thought or an interesting discussion starter. Jesus called it the “most important commandment” (Mark 12:29-30), and Paul called love the “most excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). These are intense qualifiers for how important love should be.
When I sort a church’s webpage of 52 sermons in the year and find maybe one or two (or none!) about love, I wonder why I would want to be a part of that.
I must confess. I used to think love was fluff. I had an attitude that thought love was the song of immoral rock stars, not the Church, and they can waste their living days thinking such nonsense like “all you need is love.” Give me the meat of the Gospel, I used to think. My mind was consumed with the important truth of the Living Word.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah — love is important — but I need depth. Perhaps my church should fit in a short lesson or two on love, but there is so much more to talk about than lovey-dovey fluff.”
That was about ten years ago. I’m a different man today. I was puffed up with knowledge back then, but had very little love to show for it. Like my friend, I went through a decimating experience (I hope to share it with you sometime) that made me wake up to the importance of love.
I refer to it as my true born again experience. I accepted the Lord at 17 years old, but I accepted love into my life in my 30s.
Is Love Just Fluff?
This idea that love is fluff: it is not of God. I believe it is a Great Deception, a clever Wormwood lie that gets us talking about anything other than what really matters. If there is ever a better reason for why churches are lacking in interest, it is because we err in thinking love is fluff.
The other stuff is the fluff. Love is IT.
Today, love consumes me. My deepest thoughts revolve around how love enters my life. It’s a tricky walk, this love thing, because everywhere you turn there is hate. It’s often difficult, but nothing is more rewarding than when I dig deep into what it means to love God and love others. The deeper I go, the more I discover how much I need to learn and relearn.
I’d love to attend a church where love is in the title of every single sermon. I suspect God would manifest himself in such a gathering because “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
It is difficult to speak on love on my blog, but I’m resolved to do more of it in the next year. I invite you to come along with me on this journey. Love may just be the void you’re looking for.
NOTE: I’m very encouraged to read this post: Your Most Courageous Resolutions for 2014. It is a call to pursue love in your 2014 goals. If there was ever a resolution that would make the world a better place, it would be the resolution to love.