My nearly sixteen year old daughter is now wearing the high school ring of one of the varsity football players around her neck. They are together nearly everyday, and I can sense the excitement around them. Filled with the mystery of spring, of life, of possibilities, day by day they are falling more and more in love.
Falling in love. Dewitt Jones, photographer for National Geographic, says that creativity is not a skill reserved for the few; it is really nothing more than falling in love with the world. Isnâ€™t that what God does with the earth and all its creatures? God fell in love with the world â€“ and it was good. In fact, the Creator fell in love with us, so much that he surrendered his own flesh and blood for our benefit, that we might also know the life, breath, and creative power of love and be bathed in them forever. God is love, and releasing that love in the world is, essentially, falling in love with God in Christ.
The more I read about success in transformational churches, new churches, and even the marketplace, the more I am struck by the need to get out of our heads and into our hearts. Business leaders are not giving up strategies and planning and thinking well about their enterprises, but they realize that they have to â€œfall in loveâ€ with what they are doing to really have a lasting impact on the market. Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, writes this in the prologue of his book about the rise of Starbucks coffee:
â€œA company can grow big without losing the passion and personality that built it, but only if itâ€™s driven not by profits but by values and by people.
The key is heart. I pour my heart into every cup of coffee, and so do my partners at Starbucks. When customers sense that, they respond in kind.â€
I have to admit, one of the first things I notice in a church is the level of passion visible, audible, and palpable in the room as they worship together. When a community of faith is in love, you know it. You feel it. You are moved by it. When a congregation merely recites prayers, sings notes, listens to the words of a sermon, and passes the offering plate, it is no more alive than a body on life support and a feeding tube. This is not the fullness of life that God intends for us.
Falling in love is one of the key elements of transformation in a church. But, be careful who and what you fall in love with. I remember being a teenager myself, and the truth is that at that young age, I was more in love with the idea of being in love, than I was in the young man for whom I expressed my affections. It didnâ€™t last.
What we fall in love with as a church is just as critical to the lasting relationship with the community to which God has called us. A congregation needs to be careful not to fall in love with the order of worship, with the music, the pastor, the architecture, the history, or even â€œthe nice, close, family feelâ€. But, rather, falling in love with Christ, with the very essence of being church, with all the people God loves and longs for like the loving father longs for the lost son â€“ thatâ€™s the mark of the Church alive.
Printed in the May 2005 issue of Connections, a publication of the Presbytery of New Covenant.