19 March, 2015 Andy Mason
I don’t know what yardstick you might use to measure success in a local church. I guess there are many. But, I wonder, how much do you think about the yardstick of love as a way of evaluating your ministry and your congregation?
Ephesians 4:11-16 gives us a fantastic vision of a maturing church growing into greater oneness and fulness in Christ. But a crucial part of that vision of maturity in Christ is love: it is about people speaking truth in love. Later in 4:32 we hear the call to be people who are kind and compassionate towards one another, and in 5:2 we are called as a community to live out lives of love. Love is an important yardstick for Paul in measuring whether or not a congregation, individuals or leaders are spiritually mature. Jonathan Edwards famously described heaven as a world of love. The local church is called to be an echo of that world of love in the world. Ministry has as its goal the building of a little world of love in Christ in the middle of a dark world.
Broadening out to the rest of the New Testament, this vision of a loving community is everywhere.
- Love is Jesus’s main command to His followers (John 13:34; 15:12, 7).
- Love is the fulfilment of all that God wants from us (Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8).
- It is how we know that people belong to Christ (John 13:35).
- It is how we imitate the Father (Matthew 5:43-44; 1 John 4:12).
- Love is how faith and the life of the Spirit is demonstrated in us (Galatians 5:6, 22; Colossians 1:8; 1 Peter 1:22).
- Love for believers is how we demonstrate that we love God (Luke 10:25-27; 1 John 4:21).
- This proves greater than every kind of spiritual gift and even faith itself (1 Corinthians 13: 8, 13).
- Conversely, a lack of love shows that we don’t know God (1 John 3:10, 15, 17; 4:8, 20) and that all our other spiritual attainments are nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
Thus we see that love is our supreme wealth as believers. It is the very life of God working out in us and a key indicator of our maturity.
So, how is your love for the people you serve? How do people describe you when you’re not around? Is it as ‘loving’? What are your relationships with your fellow believers like? And what characterises your church community? Are you known for your love and kindness? Are you living a life of love together? Let’s seek to grow in the one thing that really matters: love in Christ.