Developing the Heart of the Church
Over the next few blogs, I’m going to attempt to explain segment by segment of my church’s vision statement.
Love. Win. Grow.
Western Heights Baptist Church exists to build a family of faith by loving all men, winning them to the Lord and growing them in faith.
Love- The heart of our church is an unconditional and intentional love for those who do not know Jesus Christ and for our brothers and sisters in faith.
Win- The purpose of our church is to introduce the love of Christ through relationship focused evangelism so that men might be won to Christ.
Grow- The foundation of our church is a commitment to grow in the grace and knowledge of our lord and savior through the study of His word.
Every church has an identity. Some carry identities that are good, some that are bad. When I arrived in Duncan, Ok, the identity of Western Heights Baptist Church was easy to define. Our church identified itself by its sweet fellowship and love. It is very evident when you walk into our church what we are about. I can remember one of my first Sundays here in Duncan. The chairman of my search committee came up and hugged me… but it was not just a typical boring half caring hug like you give when you know that hugging is appropriate but really don’t want to hug. It was a bear hug where he pulled me off the ground and squeezed the ever living daylights out of me. In my humble opinion that’s the kind of fellowship we have at my church… a pull you off the ground and squeeze the ever living daylights out of you fellowship.
As a pastor still very wet behind the ears I learn every day how ministry works. One of the things that I have learned this past year is that you must work constantly to develop the strengths and identity of your church. Churches are living organisms and nothing can stay the same by nature, it either grows or declines. To have sweet fellowship in the church you must strive constantly to keep it. The same is true in any person’s life. No one stays the same. Tonight I am talking about the war within us between the Spirit of God and our fleshly desires. When Christians do not strive for the fruit of God, our flesh always prevails. In the church, made up of people who every day have the war of sin and holiness waged within them, it is natural for fruit either to decay or grow. To have the sweet fellowship and love of Christ at the heart of our church, we must constantly let the Spirit of God work within us to produce fruit.
Love has never existed passively. No relationship, no fellowship, nothing can love without striving for it. I know many people who have been in love only to find themselves several months later out of it. In know many Christians who fall in love with a church only to fall out a few months later and move on to another fellowship. To quote the great poet DC Talk “words come easy, but don’t meant much, when the words that your saying you cant put trust in… Love, Love, Love is a Verb” Most people when they enter into a relationship feel the insatiable feeling of infatuation. They are in love. In my own marriage, there have been times when the warm fuzzies of our dating years weren’t there. Love grew in my marriage when it was action driven not feeling driven. In church a recent trend has occurred where people will date a church as long as feelings exist, but when those feeling are gone, then divorce. If a person truly wants love to drive their fellowship they must commit to love even when others in the church are unlovable. Love cannot be contingent on a feeling; it must be rooted in God’s sacrificial love, given to us to give to others.
For any church to have real love it must be outward focused. Many people are looking for a loving church but really are looking for a church to love them. It is a selfish love. If I married my wife because she loves me, yet I do not love her, our relationship would fall apart. Love is a two way street. The love of God is not a selfish love, it is selfless. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself.” Within our vision statement there are two groups that our church should strive to Love. First, we love those who do not know Jesus Christ. Second we love our brothers and sisters in faith. Regarding the first, If “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”, and if we are called to be Christ like, then our unity, love, and fellowship will be centered around God’s love and purpose, saving those in the world. Think of it as a triangle- each church member sits at the bottom, God is the top. As we grow towards God we grow closer to one another. Our love is solely based on loving God, and fulfilling what he called us to do- loving men into His kingdom. Regarding the second when we are active in service loving those outside of our church our love inside will come naturally as we take on as a body the heart of God. For perfect unity to exist in the body, the body must love those outside its walls.
The heart of the church must always be the heart of God. What is the heart of God? It’s simply seeking to save those who are lost. In our vision we use 3 key words. Love. Win. Grow. True love leads men to salvation. Winning men to Christ doesn’t end in conversion, it continues into discipleship. Growing in God always leads to having his heart- loving the lost. It is a cycle. The question I want to leave you today is do you love your church? Not by words, but in action — do you love your church?