Church DNA Essential # 3 – LOVE

“All of the law and the prophets hang on these commands (of Jesus).” Does anybody recognize that verse? It comes after one of the most quoted group of verses in the entire New Testament: Matthew 22:34-40 NIV

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All of the law and the prophets hang on these two commands.”

The term “hang” in Greek means that these verses (all of the law and prophets) “find their significance” in the commands of loving God and others.

The modern church read that we are to believe the law and behave how the prophets call us to act and if a person meets those criteria then they are allowed to enter our church, become members, and then belong. In a post-modern culture people want to belong, to be loved regardless of their state of being. If what we believe and how we behave are not founded in love then we have missed the point. Remember that these commandments only find their place when they lead to loving God and loving others. This is authentic biblical community.

That is why scripture says that of faith, hope, and love (amazing virtues) that the greatest of these is love. That is why Christ said of his followers, “They will know you are my disciples if you love one another.”

The final DNA essential for churches is LOVE. Love God and love others. This should be the foundation for all ministries. No one should be left out.


A Place Where Community is the “NORM”

OK, so you have your morning coffee in hand and have found your way to the Sportspastor blog. There is a twenty percent chance that you have remained at Starbucks, though eighty percent of caffeine gulpers get their coffee to go. But there are a growing number of people that bring their computers and find a comfortable chair in which to take advantage of the free wireless internet access. Maybe they like the chairs or maybe they consider Starbucks their second office. Regardless, they have a 21st century “Cheers”. Sing it with me, “You wanna go where everybody knows your name dah… dah dah dah dah… dah dah.” In 2007, Sam, Woody, and a bunch of coffee beans would greet the character “Norm”. Maybe that is why Frasier moved to Seattle, the birthplace of Starbucks, a place where community is the “Norm”. Could Starbucks be replacing the neighborhood bar? Maybe so…

Two generations ago, the neighborhood did not need a bar to create community. But in 2007, according to George Gallup, only 3 in 10 people in America actually know their neighbors. Based upon his findings he declared that Americans are among the loneliest people in the world. It is not good to be alone. God said these exact words in Genesis 2:18. Everything that God created up until this point was good, but after God created man in His own image he concluded that something was not good. The problem was aloneness. God solved that problem with the creation of Eve and Adam was no longer alone. Now think about all of the preachers that preach and all of the artists that sing, “All we need is Jesus!” Is that correct? Think about it: Adam was alone though He walked with God in the garden. So what does that mean? It means that God designed us to live in community. We not only need God, but we need each other, as well. As the body of Christ, we need to function in community in order to meet the need of aloneness for a believer and for an unbeliever.

A Cup of Community at Starbucks

Looking for a good job? Allow me to give you three good reasons to work at Starbucks. First of all, part-time workers get benefits. Did you hear that college and grad students? The second reason is the fact that you can walk to work. There is a Starbucks on every corner these days. In fact, I once heard that there are two Starbucks on opposite corners in Los Angeles that amazingly enough attract different generations at each store. But the third reason to work at Starbucks is the focus of the blog today. Starbucks is serving more than a cup of coffee; they are serving community, as well. Check out this excerpt from the company job description at Starbucks: “When you work at Starbucks, you can make a difference in someone’s day by creating an environment where neighbors and friends can get together and reconnect while enjoying a great coffee experience.” That sounds like a mission statement of a church that I want to attend. A welcoming church ethos is about more than just a 7th inning stretch prior to the sermon. Creating a warm environment is about more than socializing during the call to worship. In addition, anyone who finds the solution by putting a coffee shop in your atrium is borrowing from the nostalgia that Starbucks has already created. So what is the solution? How can the church meet this need for community that exists inside of believers and non-believers alike? We must major on relationships. If you have read my blog for very long you will know that I see sports outreach ministry as one of the greatest opportunities we have to build relational bridges mostly between the church and unchurched. It also naturally provides an opportunity for relationships among the fellowship of believers. It is a win-win operation.

Top Podcasts for Church Leaders – Creative Pastors

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The Creative Pastors blog and podcast is another amazing resource for church leaders. Ed Young is the founding and Senior Pastor of Fellowship Church. FC started in 1990 with just 150 people, and now over 20,000 attend one of five campuses each weekend with four in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and one in Miami, Florida. Ed is the author of ten books and is seen nationally on USA Network each week. If you get a chance to catch Ed on USA Network you can see that his creativity goes far beyond his presentation of God’s Word, it extends to the design of the stage set as well. The most recent sermon uses sports to explain the importance of going beyond the bleachers and into the game. You guessed it…the stage was turned into a basketball court. Click on the link above to download it from iTunes. If you do not have iTunes go to the Apple Website to download it today. You will wonder how you ever lived without it. Many do not understand that you have so many cool possibilities for using iTunes beyond just owning an iPod.

Be a Body Builder!

A recent Princeton study on community concluded that in most cases small groups “provide occasions for individuals to focus on themselves in the presence of others.” Is that how you want your church community groups to be defined? I would certainly hope not. I would rather strive for the description of the people and purpose of Mosaic Church in Los Angeles:

“We are a community of followers of Jesus Christ, committed to live by faith, to be known by love, and to be a voice of hope. The name of our community comes from the diversity of our members and from the symbolism of a broken and fragmented humanity which can become a work of beauty under the artful hands of God.”

So many churches claim that authenticity is the key to successful small group ministry. Yes, it is important, it is as important as accountability. And it is as important as comforting and encouraging. But the foundation of successful biblical community, in my opinion, is the natural following the Great Commandment among like-minded believers. If you place God and others above self, then mutual edification can occur and the body of believers can be built up (Eph. 4:16). Remember, regardless of the shape you are in you can be a body builder!