We’re just coming off the Valentine’s Day weekend which can bring up a lot of feelings for people. Hopefully for believers in Christ it causes us to reflect on how we have or have not been loving, kind and charitable to those around us. In the words of one of my favorite Lenny Kravitz’ jams from the 1980s: ‘We’ve got to let love rule!’ We know that at the heart of any renewal movement is the knowledge that “we love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Here are five ways we can let love rule in our churches and communities.
Way 1: Let Love Rule Through Local Schools
Many of our churches are in close proximity to local public schools that are really struggling. Perhaps we can see this as an opportunity instead of a problem. Are there folks in your church who have a couple hours per week to volunteer in the classroom, helping a child learn to read or mentoring a student who is behind? Hundreds of churches have come around this idea in Portland, Oregon over the past 12 years. In a post-Christian city, we have learned to show God’s love and then speak of God’s love. Just in my own congregation, one longtime member started volunteering a decade ago, which has led to many relationships. Recently, she even brought in a parent who was really struggling as a new immigrant. I was able to pray with her and lead her to Christ that day. Let the changes that COVID-19 has brought to schools help you re-imagine how you might love the families in your neighborhood.
Way 2: Let Love Rule Through Community Partnerships
The Holy Spirit is already at work in your community through non-profits, small businesses and schools. God is preparing the hearts of those who will receive Him and be drawn into the life of your church. How can you join God in the work He is doing to both bring faith and transform every square inch? Serving in various roles in my neighborhood has introduced me to so many people who aren’t yet believers. Three years ago, a local non-profit was looking to form a community advisory group and I was asked to apply. I have made great friends on that team as we have brought different factions of our community together. This has led to many spiritual conversations and even to people visiting our church or checking out our live stream.
Way 3: Let Love Rule Through Church Partnerships
Many of us have been forced into church partnerships through naturally existing relationships (a CRC or RCA nearby) or sharing staff members (a youth pastor who serves two churches). But as many of our regions become more post-Christian, we will have increasing opportunities to show non-believers that Christians of many stripes can get along and serve together. It is a blessing to come together with churches in our community and be united under one banner of “God Loves Our City.” For the past 15 years, we’ve had a neighborhood prayer walk on Pentecost Sunday afternoon, with signs proclaiming God’s Kingdom as well as showing practical love through picking up trash. We get a lot of encouragement from neighbors, mostly in the forms of friendly honks! Many of them do not believe like us, but we are showing love, setting aside minor differences and bringing hope to our neighbors.
Way 4: Let Love Rule Through Emotional Health
In our churches, we can love our brothers and sisters in Christ through encouraging emotional health. Many of us have been so wounded by family of origin issues or church conflict that our efforts to truly know and love one another are stunted. Pastor Pete Scazzero from New Life Fellowship in Queens, NY, has been very influential in this area. His mantra is “You can’t be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.” He has many fine books, courses and a great podcast that help us love God and our fellow church members in ways that spark health and renewal.
Way 5: Let Love Rule Through Discipleship
As gospel-centered people, we know the most loving thing we can do for someone is direct them to God’s love in Christ. Nothing renews a congregation like seeing new life in Christ. At the Center for Church Renewal, we have developed 222Disciple that helps us love God and others in deeper ways. Another great resource for discipleship is Mike Breen’s “Building a Discipling Culture”. We can let love rule through introducing people to Jesus and helping them grow in His grace!
So, in this Valentine’s Day week, who are you praying for? Who can you encourage on their journey to Jesus?