Leading With Love In Church Renewal

Written by Bill Whitt
April 3, 2023

Jesus commanded his closest followers, the ones who became leaders in the early church, to love others as he loved us. We need to do the same.

This Thursday is called “Maundy Thursday” on the church calendar. It commemorates the day when Jesus gave his new command (mandatum nova) to love others as he loved us. He said this love should characterize our lives so much that it is the way the world knows that we belong to him (John 13:34-35)!

  • Jesus gave this command to his closest followers, the ones who would become leaders in the early church. He knew they would need a powerful motivator to keep them going through the ups and downs of ministry. For those of us working in church renewal 2,000 years later, we still need the same encouragement.
Five ways to lead with love in church renewal
1. Love the Lost
  • What motivates missions? Paul knew that some people in his day preached Christ out of envy, rivalry, and selfish ambition (Phil. 1:15-16). The same is true today.
  • In healthy renewal churches, however, love leads the way. We are concerned for people’s eternal destiny, as well as their ability live the abundant life God intends everyday (John 10:10).
  • Pew Research has found that 29% of people in 2021 claimed no religion — a figure that has almost doubled since 2007. The mission field is ripe for harvest! Jesus loved outsiders, and so should we!
2. Love the children
  • Barna recently found that 64% of 18- to 29-year-olds who grew up in church have withdrawn from church involvement. Many now identify as “exvangelical” and sharply criticize the church’s lack of love as the reason they left.
  • How can we future proof our children’s faith? We don’t have all the answers yet, but we do know that the best motivation to figure it out is love. Jesus loved the children, and so should we!
3. Love Your Neighbors
  • When a struggling church closes its doors after decades of decline, I hear one explanation far more often than any other: The neighborhood changed, but the church did not. In short, the church became insular rather than loving its neighbors well.
  • In Mark 12:31, Jesus summed up the entirety of the law as loving God and loving neighbors. For the church to survive and thrive, we must not ignore the neighbors God has put right in front of us. Jesus loves them, and so should we!
4. Love your enemies
  • Leadership is not for the faint of heart. Steve Jobs said, “If you want to make everyone happy, don’t be a leader. Sell ice cream.” As much as everyone says they want change, in reality, hardly anyone actually wants to change.
  • When you work in church renewal, you will step on toes. What then? Do you write off the people who oppose progress? Or do you do the humble work of loving them and serving them? Jesus was clear — love is not just for neighbors; it is for enemies too (Matthew 5:43ff). Jesus loved his enemies, and so should we!
5. Love yourself
  • When Jesus taught us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, he assumed that we love ourselves. However, we are often our own worst critics and experts in self-sabotage. We talk to ourselves more harshly than we would ever dare to talk to anyone else.
  • Church leader, you need grace too. You are in the business of dispensing grace to others, but don’t forget to give yourself grace. You are not perfect. You are not Super Man. You are not God. When you fail, fall into the arms of your merciful Father, and be as kind to yourself as he is to you. Jesus loves you, and you should too!

Leave a Reply

6 + 14 =

What others have said...
Join the next Church Renewal Lab!


The Church Renewal Lab is a two-year renewal kick-start helping congregations refresh their mission focus as they seek to make more and better disciples.

Learn More

Subscribe to CCR Newsletter

Newsletter Subscription

Latest Articles

Take FREE Assessment