On faith: Love lights way back to churchWhy are fewer Americans attending church on a regular basis? Why is the Christian faith becoming more and more irrelevant in our daily lives?
By: Pastor Jim Joseph, Living Waters Fellowship, Two Harbors, Lake County News Chronicle
Why are fewer Americans attending church on a regular basis? Why is the Christian faith becoming more and more irrelevant in our daily lives? If current trends continue, the church will become a relic of history, the repository of an ancient faith perhaps tolerated as an older relative whose stories, like old clothes, smell of mothballs and decay.
Even here in Two Harbors there are many who have left the church. The reasons are varied but the results are the same – congregations struggling to be relevant and simply survive.
To the many of you who find the church distant and unresponsive to your needs, I ask your forgiveness. Authentic Christianity is not about buildings and budgets. It is about discipleship. And central to discipleship is relationship. We make disciples by investing in the lives of others and helping them find a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is a life-long process that involves Christians in the lives of others – often strangers who later become brothers or sisters in God’s family.
When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus said, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 ESV)
At His final Passover meal with His disciples, Jesus told them, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:12 ESV)
If we can incorporate these principles into our lives as individuals and congregations I believe we can reverse the trend and see the Church become more relevant than ever before.
We are to love God supremely. He alone is worthy of such absolute devotion and service. We love Him because He pursued us with His love, redeemed us on the Cross, and meets our needs day by day. We love Him as our Father in heaven. We love Him as the Lord Jesus Christ. We love Him as the Holy Spirit who lives within us and sustains us.
Loving others as ourselves is not complicated. We love ourselves by feeding, clothing, providing shelter, and other basic needs for ourselves. This is also how we love our neighbors – we meet the basic needs of those around us and around the world. Feeding our neighbors who lost their jobs, providing clean water to children in sub-Sahara Africa, holding a benefit supper to help a young mom battling cancer, or disciplining our spending so future generations do not have to face huge debt loads and sacrifice are all ways we love our neighbor.
The closest relationships for Jesus’ disciples are to be with others who share that common relationship with Him. Our love for each other is to be like Jesus’ love for us – sacrificial, unconditional, and abundant. Tragically, many Christians are known for their judgmental attitudes and harsh condemnation of anyone who fails to live up to the standards they imposed upon them. This is wrong on so many levels. We are all sojourners here on earth with heaven as our goal. We are each a part of Christ’s body, the Church. And like our human bodies we need each part working properly and together with the rest. And we are family- brothers and sisters in Christ.
May it be said of us as of those early disciples: “Look at how they love each other!”