There is a lethal weapon in the mouth of the sheep wielded with much relish by some; it is the accusation that a church lacks love. Many a pastor lives on an emotional roller coaster and goes on endless guilt trips at the dreaded mention of lovelessness. Mary Rearick Paul in an insightful article on servant evangelism says that in every church she pastored people complained about being isolated, not feeling loved and appreciated. Indeed one of the greatest needs people have is love and when they connect with a church community, often they are instinctively asking not only for Jesus but also for love and acceptance, and they ought to find it. Our churches must function as authentic love communities.
Yet is it always and necessarily the church’s fault when people do not feel loved or appreciated? I believe not. Mary Rearick Paul says ‘those who have difficulties experiencing love and acceptance will usually find themselves cared for much better by becoming involved in serving others. Not only does their focus begin to shift off their own felt needs, but they also develop a deeper bond with those serving with them”. In other words, demanding love is not the answer, giving and serving is. When people GO and do something for and with someone else, give, serve, help, they become less self absorbed and develop relationships. In so doing, they are no longer isolated; they will love and be loved. I believe Jesus put it this way ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’.
Furthermore, we must recognize that some of the strident cries for love reflect deeply rooted personal issues that people are not willing to deal with while they shift the responsibility for their sense of discontent on the church. With a dramatic wave of our Holy Spirit wand and as proof of our calling and anointing, leaders are under pressure to, in one fell swoop, wipe away years of dysfunctional behavior without the discipline of diligent prayer, bible study and obedience. Yet an unsuspecting church or leader can end up devoting so much of their energy to making their most uncooperative members feel happy and loved that they forget their mission to reach those outside the church (who, if the gospel is to be believed are in much worse shape than any person in the church who truly belongs to Christ). The church becomes a club that caters exclusively to the unending needs of its members.
As a Christian you have received the power of the Holy Spirit to be and to do; you are not to live in passive dependence waiting for someone to make life better for you, ‘feed me, bathe me, warm me.’ You and I have received the ability to be bona fide actors in this human drama, bearers of love, bearers of hope, and bearers of life and not takers only. But first we need to renounce the worship of me, get ourselves off centre stage and reach out to someone else, make someone else the star and the hero of the story. And we will know love. Our Father will see to it that we do.