Today is Valentine’s Day and I purposefully wore my “I <3 my church” shirt today.
I had some interesting responses and non responses… But the truth is: I love my church, and you should love yours too.
1. I love my church: my family
GraceLife now has four campuses and a number of “family members” scattered around. But my most important congregation is my beautiful wife and adorable son. Ministry begins in the home. 1 Timothy 3 even shows us that a man can only be an elder if his household (wife and children) is in order. In other words, he needs to minister at home before he ministers anywhere else. Too many ministers have ignored this one, wrongly believing that “if I look after God’s family, He will look after mine.” WRONG! God wants to look after YOUR family THROUGH YOU.
1 Timothy 5:8, JB PHILIPS, “You should make it clear that for a man to refuse to look after his own relations, especially those actually living in his house, is a denial of the faith he professes. He is far worse than a man who makes no profession.”
Ephesians 5:28 says that he who loves his wife loves himself. This is because my wife and I are one flesh: looking after her = looking after myself. Hurting her (even by neglect for the ministry) = hurting myself (and it’s an epic fail).
I wore my “I <3 my church” shirt in the first place because my church is my wife and son, and I really love them.
2. I love my church: God’s family is my family
The old saying would be more correct to say, “the blood of Christ is thicker than the water of birth.” Too few believers have a good understanding of this truth that church family (as in body of Christ, not institution) is family. Real family. My wife and I have believed this and practiced it since we got married. We have invited people we know well and people we don’t know so well to Christmas lunch because they didn’t have “water family”. We have spent time with and invested into people outside of our surname-relations because the love of Christ, in us, compels us and in Christ we are one! We are part of each other!
1 Corinthians 12:26, “If one part suffers, all parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.”
The church is likened to a body and called “the body of Christ”. And so it would do us all well to realize that as much as your arm is a part of you, and as necessary as it is, likewise we are part of each other and all necessary for each other.
A side note: I believe that unbelievers are family too – they just haven’t realized it yet. In the parable of the lost son a good question to ask is, “when was the lost son ever not his Father’s son?”
I wore my “I <3 my church” shirt in the second place because my church is you and every believer worldwide, and I really love us.
3. I love my church: GraceLife
I believe in the local church as an expression of the church at large. I believe it is God’s vehicle and agent for change in our world. I believe that missions organizations like YWAM are also expressions of the church and that it is really silly to label them “para church” and shun them for doing a better job at reaching the nations than most churches put together. (That was for free)
Back to my point: God birthed GraceLife as a branch of the body of Christ. GraceLife (like any other local church) is a family on its own. You could say the local churches are immediate families while neighboring churches are like cousins. In our immediate family of GraceLife, we tend to get close to people – really close. Even when people don’t consider themselves “part of the family”, we tend to. We love people! That’s why it’s difficult for us when people leave on a bad note, or for no reason, or without any notice. We recently had close friends – family, people that we invited into our lives to do life with – leave. They may have had good reasons and they may have even been justifiably hurt – but the only reason I accept is: “God’s moving me on.”
The honest truth is that GraceLife is not perfect (don’t tell anyone). I think it might be because there are people involved? We have problems and need to grow in many areas. We make mistakes in dealing with each other, often, but the bottom line is that no family is perfect. That’s why I like to call our churches “grace communities”. We exist to help people experience God’s grace (His undeserved favour and acceptance) and for us all to experience that unconditional love, favour and acceptance (grace) from each other. It blessed me when one of my “sons in the faith”, Ettienne, said the other day, “it’s amazing how people always want to experience or receive grace, but are never willing to extend it… Especially to leadership.” Ettienne made a good point: we often expect leadership to be perfect and for leadership to accept the fact that we are not perfect. How hypocritical!
On another note, someone commented on my shirt saying,”you should love it – it’s your church!” That’s not the point if it at all. My wife and I did start GraceLife and I am the leader. But I do not own it. Jesus is GraceLife’s Chief Shepherd and Senior Pastor. I am leader under Him, caring for His flock. I don’t own the sheep, He does. I didn’t purchase the sheep with my blood, He did. And He will love them more than I can, always.
And yet on another note, some people are shocked at a statement like “I love my church” for a variety of reasons. Some even think it’s pride. But you really should love your church! If you don’t, why on earth are you there?! If you can’t wear a “I <3 my church” shirt then you have to ask yourself “why?” And if you don’t enjoy going, then you need to consider “why?”
It may not be that you need to find a new church (although it might be – especially if you’re getting a regular diet of legalistic self-help and do-good-to-be-good garbage), it may be that you need to find a new attitude and extend grace towards your leaders and church family.
You should believe that your church is the best church in town – otherwise, why are you there? I am not talking about arrogance or comparison. I am talking about being part of something you love and believe in! Even though GraceLife doesn’t have the best worship band or slick systems and structures (we’re getting there), I believe we are the best church to be part of!
I wore my “I <3 my church” shirt in the third place because I am a member of GraceLife, where I serve as a leader, and I am proud to say that “I love my church” and believe it is the best!