The fourth of our cultural pillars is “Filled With Love”. God is looking for a church filled with love, that loves one another as Christ has loved us. That knows the love of God that passes all understanding and yields and allows that love to manifest through us.
Now this cultural pillar is something that I think all Christians pay lip service to. We all want to be loving people, we all want to love people and we all want to come to a church that loves us. But saying it and doing it are two different things. And we had to look hard and long at how a church filled with love should look, and although there are several issues involved, the key issue for us has been small groups.
To me one of the most shocking verses in the Bible is this one:
My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3.18)
You can read that verse in different translations, but it is always clear: we are not supposed to love in words. We are not to tell people we love them. We are to show them they are loved. Why? Words are easy. The only true love is love that is expressed in deeds, and the Greek word for deeds is ergon, which means things we produce.
If you are doing something for someone that produces something for them, you are not loving them. That’s a staggering truth, but it is the truth of the Word.
Now imagine your average Sunday morning service. You worship, you give in the offering, you listen to the Word, you grab a cup of tea and you say hello to someone. There might be hundreds of people in the service, but where is the love? The guy making the teas has loved you. The preacher has loved you. The worship leaders have loved you. But there has not been a place for you to serve and be served to be known, to love and to love. Not fully.
But imagine a small group of people meeting in a house. They can all love each other, they can all know each others name, they can all have dinner together, they can all share their needs and issues. They can love, because love is in deed or truth.
At this stage people get confused. When people see the power of small groups they often call for an end to big meetings, but nothing could be further from being right. The early church met in the temple and the house and so should we. The big group inspires us, gives us vision, gives us a place to worship and move forward whereas the small group gives us a place to love and be loved, a place to serve and a place to flow in the gifts.
So when we say a place filled with love, we mean that we are utterly committed to small groups and empowering those groups. So that we can love truly, love indeed – in deed.