We all believe that the Lord Jesus is building His Church, but we are not all aware that the He is building His Church with Love. I have heard of many titles for Church Growth conferences, but I have never heard of one about love and relationships. The 21st century church wants slick recipe-like strategies from the Business world, but they don’t want to do the hard work of loving people on a daily basis. It’s been a long journey, but thanks to His grace He didn’t leave us there. This is our story.
1 Cor 13:13 NKJV: And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Cor 12:31 NKJV: But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.
In a world where morality is falling like dead leaves in the winter, words just don’t carry the weight necessary to communicate properly. Our actions are our only guarantee to others of the definition we give to our words.
We have tried adding descriptive words to the word LOVE like radical, raw, extreme, and the new one “epic” to assure others that we offer a better product. But this society is tired of commercials. Just like those fake pictures on television of bigger burgers and better sandwiches, Americans are tired of hearing about the Church’s new and better product but seeing no difference. Everywhere you look there are congregations competing against their brothers in the faith for their market share. This is just like the world. Forgive us Jesus.
Hidden from view, there is a grassroots family of simple folk who are retooling and retraining themselves under the direction of the Holy Spirit to be His disciples in this generation. I salute these people for their willingness to believe for something better, not giving up and walking away from the whole painful mess of the past. Their greatest victory is their commitment to each other and to their Lord, King Jesus.
Based on the strength of their ever-growing daily relationships, they move ever so slowly but surely. They pray, they care for, and support each other. Their faithfulness and their selflessness make them as bright as the stars in the sky. Woven together by Christ with the scarlet thread of His love, there is nothing that can separate them from each other. Get ready world because true history makers and world changers have been raised from the debris of the failed institutional church system!
We write to them. Only they can understand what we are saying by the Holy Spirit who leads us. While you won’t find one know-it-all among us, we have complete trust in the Builder now that He has truly been allowed to be the true Head of His Church.
I thought I would chronicle our first steps in this journey for those who are beginning to inquire of us about His Way.
1 John 1:1-4 NKJV: That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life — 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us — 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.
These are some of the loving steps that we believe the Lord Jesus is using to build His Church:
1. Beyond Meetings
The Body of Christ has become to us a daily 24/7 reality. We are not waiting for scheduled meetings to occur to enjoy the Christ in each other. We are taking advantage of every opportunity where two or three are gathered to strengthen and build each other up. His love permeates everything we do together, whether just laughing and hanging out, or crying together about the loss of a loved one. Since His love fills our hearts for each other, our ears have become acute, and we quickly recognize God-ordained appointments and assignments. We see the Lord’s daily opportunities as meetings scheduled before the beginning of time. Each day we rejoice in our “today” together, yet we are excited and filled with anticipation for what the Lord has planned for us in our “tomorrow”.
2. Beyond bible verses
We are survivors of a church obsessed with bible verses. Instead of helping us find the mind of Christ together, these same bible verses are the ones men have manipulated time after time to divide His Body. Understanding the Bible was not available to the first disciples, so we have questioned the validity of people who can readily memorize and repeat bible verses but do not have the nature of Christ. We have returned to these very scriptures to realize that when scripture speaks about the “word of God,” it is speaking of our Lord Jesus Christ, not Bible verses. The first century disciples had an authentic relationship with HIM via the Holy Spirit that was not based upon religious jargon and rituals. Giving bible verses to unregenerate, spiritually deaf church members is as productive as teaching them to a parrot. We agree with Father God’s words in one of the few times He spoke audibly from heaven:
Mark 9:7 NKJV: “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!”
3. Beyond Friendship
Living in a society where the word “friend” has been cheapened by social media, we have had to return to the life of Christ to set up a real blueprint we can follow based on the Father’s definition of love and relationships. We have had to learn to love, really love as the Father loves the Son. We have had to learn to walk in full commitment toward each other in the good times and in the bad times. We know that turning our back on the relationships given to us by the Lord is equal to turning our back on Christ, and that is simply out of the question. We are married to Christ, and His love is so real and strong that divorce is not an option. He loves us and keeps us even when we fail Him. So now, in reference to each other, we love our brothers and fight to keep our relationships even when they fail us.
Too hard, you say? Then realize you have opted for something less than divine love according to His Spirit and the scriptures. I attest to you that these new relationships that are being formed are stronger than any human blood tie or any contractual obligation. God is Love and God has made Himself the chief cornerstone of the Church He is building. Everything the Lord builds concerning His Church is birthed in His nature, a nature of Love. So you see, if the love isn’t pure and the relationships are not right, we have learned we are building in vain. How does the Lord build? Let’s look at Him. We have the Trinity as an example of perfect unity brought about by love in the Godhead. That unity on earth was meant to be expressed in a family. His Church will be a model of that true family. A model the world desperately needs and is looking for.
4. Beyond Words
Love is a universe that communicates. Love at its best communicates by touch and face to face. When love is in top form it communicates the condition of the heart via facial expression or with the eyes – no words need be spoken. To get that close requires trust, and trust like that is not easily granted especially if the other party is already wounded. Trust takes time, but to speed things up we have learned to transfer trust much like Paul did with Onesimus in the book of Philemon.
Yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you,
You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart,
If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me.
It’s not hard to figure out what Paul is saying to Philemon. He is saying, “I now assign all the trust and love you and I have worked for over the years in our relationship to Onesimus and to his relationship with you.” This was no small task for Philemon since Onesimus had betrayed him and stolen from him. But Paul knew the kind of relationship he and Philemon had and in essence he said, “I trust you Philemon. You will do what I’ve asked and much more.” Now that is a Holy Spirit-driven relationship and it is an example of communication from the heart.
After years of looking at the backs of people’s heads, we now spend a lot of time sharing our hearts with one another. True love cares, and if it cares, it communicates to maintain the vibrancy of that love. It is this need to love that now drives our desire to gather so we can share life together.
5. Beyond Casual
This love does not play games. Since it comes at such a heavy price, it is greatly valued. Things that are valued in life receive top priority from us. Phone calls from each other are answered, even at odd hours. Time is made to invest in each other’s lives. We are intentional about this. If you don’t know what that means, it means we are serious, and we are aiming for a tangible result. Our purpose is to take “I feel you love me” to “I know you love me” and “I like you” to “I love you in Christ.” Since most believers are coming from the dysfunctional thing we now call church, we need real elders and spiritual fathers to walk this out in faith with those that may not yet fully understand what it means to move from causal relationships to committed relationships. While difficult at first, especially when the other party does not respond in kind, it is possible if we trust the Spirit to guide us. I can’t begin to tell you what a joy it is when both parties are fully committed to the task.
6. Beyond Comfortable
To an American church that seeks comfort in all things and has absolutely no respect or value for suffering in the life of a believer, being uncomfortable in our relationships is to be avoided at all costs. Not so with us! We understand what scripture means when it says “iron sharpens iron.” Friction removes those pieces of each person to conform us to design of the Creator. A real disciple is willing to go beyond their comfort zone to maximize his or her full kingdom potential. Wine comes from crushed grapes, the best olive oil is the first pressed, and our blessed Lord Jesus Christ learned obedience from the things He suffered. Should we, who desire to affect this world with His fragrance, expect anything less? Dear brethren, do not be afraid to love till it hurts. It is then we most resemble our Savior. Anyone can pop a pill and commit suicide, but it takes a special person to die to self while self screams loudly for protection. The flesh was created to run from pain. Instead, we like the Marines run to the sound of gunfire because we know that our death means a greater revelation of His Life in us. When you go through your dark night of the soul (for some it will be years), I challenge you to trust in God the perfect Father. He knows what we are going through. We must be humble enough to believe we would not be able to understand the answer to our “Why?” questions even if He did explain them to us. If you are going through dark times, stay close to your Father’s family and they will be a source of strength. By no means should we believe – not even for one second – our difficulties in life are a sign the Father has abandoned us! It is in those difficulties when He is the closest to His children.
7. Beyond Boundaries
The world teaches us to set up boundaries to protect ourselves. Real relationships will take you beyond your boundaries. Love confronts and love rebukes if it really cares. Today’s society just deletes, erases, blocks, avoids, and ignores when something crosses the unseen boundary line. Real Christians don’t run, they confront because they seek solutions to relational problems, not avoidance of problems. If you are going to part of the relational Body of Christ, you had better get used to dealing with issues. People will get in your face, and you will not mind because they have proven to you that they love you and have your best in mind. You might be saying, “I don’t know if I want that.” Then, like the rest of the modern church, get used to staying where you are and never growing. No pain! No gain! That holds true in Christian love, too. Now if you allow the sharp knife of brotherly love to whittle away those things that hinder your relationship with your Father and with His family, you will grow. Some of us have been carrying some pretty nasty baggage for years. Over the years we have not even allowed the Lord Jesus himself to perform Holy Ghost surgery to get rid of that old nasty baggage. Not so in the Church the Lord is building. Together, the family forms a safe place to dispose of that baggage and to heal. In this family no one can be 30 years saved and still not potty trained. No more living in denial. If it smells, someone needs a change. No more pampers for you! This is where the Lord is taking you now, to His Safe Harbor of brotherly love.
We have done our best to describe to you some of the processes in this journey that have revolutionized our lives. We are not there yet, but many things have become clearer and the finish line is in sight. We invite you to come, taste, and see that in His people the Lord is good!
Jose L. Bosque
See article by David Fredrickson https://godsleader.com/reduced-to-love/