My greatest desire currently is to see the Kingdom of God engage with Chicago – our hometown. This will only happen by way of the followers of Jesus loving one another. Although loving one another may seem like an inward focus, it is in reality an outward connection point with society.
Jesus addresses this kingdom principle twice. First he tells his disciples that everyone will know that they are his disciples by their love for one another (John 13:34-35). Then, later in the same evening, Jesus prayed for his disciples, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even you have loved me” John 17.23). In other words, our unity is a testimony to the culture that the Father sent Jesus into the world and that the Father loves his children.
Christianity has tried many approaches to engage society. We have retooled our church services to be more relevant, served the city through community projects; we have become involved in politics and launched media campaigns. Though I do not question the sincerity behind these efforts, I have wondered about their effectiveness.
In the last couple of years I have two new friends who have influenced me greatly in regards to my approach to ministry: age and cancer.
While young I did not give much thought to how I did ministry because there were many exciting opportunities before me, coupled with plenty of time. I knew that if one approach did not work then I could always try something else. I have since worked at a Christian college, traveled with an itinerant ministry, participated in church start-ups, and served in both traditional and contemporary churches—all the while being involved in myriad ministry strategies and initiatives.
Age has given me the opportunity to look back over thirty years of ministry to determine what lasted and what did not. I have now simplified my life to do the main thing, make disciples of Jesus.
The day I was diagnosed with cancer, I walked out of my doctor’s office in a daze, went across the street and sat down on a park bench. In those moments I realized that what mattered was God’s love for me, my love for him, the people who loved me, and those whom I loved. I had a new understanding of what John meant when he wrote: “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).
I have a new singular devotion . . . to love well. That’s how disciples are made.