Siby and I recently attended a conference at Epiphany Fellowship (a fellow Acts 29 Church in Philadelphia) called “Thriving.” The conference seeks to equip leaders who belong to churches located in urban areas. We met a number of pastors who love Jesus and have a heart for the urban context. In two days, we heard numerous talks, listened to a couple of panel discussions, and interacted with leaders from around the nation. I was so encouraged to see so many men who love the Lord and desire to serve Him in some of the toughest parts of America.
At the conclusion of the conference, one thought remained on my mind: mission requires love. What causes a family to move into a neighborhood stricken with drugs and violence? Love. What makes a person willing to get involved in the messiness of another’s life? Love. What leads people to pursue and engage someone who is nothing like them? Love.
It has to be love because lesser things will not sustain us. Mission isn’t sexy. It isn’t about “feeling good about helping others.” The moment you’re ridiculed or rejected, or your safety is threatened, lesser motivations will offer no comfort. It has to be love. But I’m not even using the word “love” in an abstract sense. It’s not the same kind of love that we have for the Eagles or the iPhone. Such love is conditional and fleeting. The love that we’re in need of is of a different kind. Such love is not found in a feeling or an idea, but a person. When we encounter this love, in Jesus, it redefines everything – especially the way we see the world. When we consider Christ’s love for us:
- We realize that we are no different. God’s love is demonstrated toward us in that while we were yet still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). We’re more sinful than we know. When we see “them” as being messier than us, it’s because we haven’t realized the depth of our own sin.
- We realize that Jesus initiated this love. This is real love. Not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to die for us (1 John 4:10). When we fail to initiate relationships with those who need the gospel, it’s because we fail to remember Christ pursued us first.
- We realize that Jesus pursued those who were unlike Him. Jesus, who is fully God, became man in order that we can be reconciled to God (Philippians 2:5-10). Though He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He became a servant. When we are resistant to pursue those who are unlike us, we forget how unlike Jesus we really are.
Whether we live in an urban context or not, what drives us to mission needs to be love. God’s saving love for us takes us from experience to expression. As recipients of such great love, we are driven to love others the same.
As our GCMs begin to meet and we discuss our need to be on mission, I pray that our conversations would be rooted in the love that He has shown us. These conversations will be hard. It will require us to be uncomfortable. The gospel will challenge us to believe and do things we never have. And yet, it’s the right and joyful response to Christ’s love for us. Mission requires love. May God give Seven Mile Road Church larger hearts for Him and for one another.