So much of church life in America is centered on busyness, programs and meetings, that it is possible to lose sight of what is really important. There is a danger of losing our focus. Paul tells us that our focus should be love.
Part of the danger is the great need that is within and without the church. People are becoming increasingly battered by life choices that are validated by the culture but prove to be damaging to the individual. There is much to do.
Yet the danger is that we take this on in our own strength and move ahead of God and without realizing it, supplant what God is trying to do.
In the opening verses of Philippians, Paul lets us know how he prayed for that church. In Phil. 1:9-11 Paul prays that the Philippians’ love might abound in knowledge and discernment. He did not pray for their busyness to abound. Nor did he pray for their programs to abound; he prayed for their love to abound.
He further qualifies this statement by praying specifically that the love would abound in knowledge and discernment. This is not a squishy, emotional love. Paul desires that the Philippians (and we) would have a love based on truth and good judgment. Our love must make the object be well not just feel well.
The purpose of this love is so that we might approve the things that are excellent, be sincere, not give offense and might be filled with the fruits of righteousness. Love is the basis on which all these things depend. Our love should work itself out in a life that is worth emulating.
I was reminded recently that it is very possible to be so busy doing good things that we miss out on opportunities to really convey love. When this happens, it is like being on a treadmill. A lot of activity takes place, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.
How many times have we had to have 20 second greetings in the church lobby because we have to rush to pick up a child, provide child care, cover the coffee ministry, the library ministry or some other activity? We have sign-ups and schedules and coverage charts which need to be updated and communicated. These are all good things, but the breathless activity often makes it difficult to deepen relationships.
I get the sense from the gospels that even though the needs surrounding Jesus were great, he still found time for teaching his disciples. He found time to share meals with tax collectors. He found time to be alone with his father.
Maybe we need to cut “ministries” rather than adding them. We certainly need a lot more love and perhaps a few less programs. Rather than rushing off to that “ministry” post, we should take the time to really minister to the person next to us in the pew. We could use a little less superficiality and a little more honesty.
Take a deep breath, relax and be real.