Today in our three-author panel, authors R. E. Clark, Paul Juby, and myself offer our thoughts on discipleship, practicing faith, and serving as missionaries. I’m excited to post the Missionary section below and hopefully begin a discussion among readers. Please leave comments below and visit the other two authors’ blogs to read through the rest of the panel.
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.
Love is the Starting Point of All Religion. So how do we effectively spread love? American Philosopher Richard Weaver observed:
It seems to me that the world is now more than ever dominated by the gods of mass and speed and that the worship of these can lead only to the lowering of standards, the adulteration of quality, and, in general, to the loss of those things which are essential to the life of civility and culture.
I am afraid that within Christianity we have sacrificed some sacred things on the altars of mass and speed. An assumption has been made that the larger the ministry and the faster a ministry grows, the more God is blessing. Because of this, churches feel the pressure to produce sizable results quickly.
The problem is that loving relationships, which are to be the mark of the followers of Jesus, cannot be made in mass or quickly. To seek to maintain too many relationships or to try and speed up the relational building process will inhibit the love you are longing to experience.
Although counter intuitive, love limits in order to multiply. When a man says, “I do” to his wife, he says “I don’t” to all other women and when a couple decides to have children they choose a lifestyle that seems confining in comparison to their friends with no children. We willingly set margins around our family so that love will multiply to future generations because to neglect a marriage leads to divorce and to be inattentive to a child results in a wounded person, both of which breaks the love continuum.