From the Pastor
Pastor Mike Burns
903.567.2072 (Ext. 3002)
Living Strong: A Restaurant or a Relationship?
In the month of February, I am presenting a series of sermons that is titled, I Love My Church. From the Bible, we are examining what God intended when He created the church. When I began preparing for this series, I realized that I needed to lead Victory back to a place where “I Love My Church” really means something to all of us who are members or attenders at Victory. Due to the passing of time and the wear and tear of life, you can find yourself not really loving your church because that love is focusing on the wrong thing.
In John 13:34-35, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This verse was a prelude of the church to come. The church will start in the book of Acts, but here we find Jesus meeting with His disciples, telling them how His followers (you and me) should be known, what the reputation will be in this community He is creating (the church). They will be a people known for their love for one another.
But what does that mean: What does it mean to love one another? When we say we want to love the church as Jesus intended it and us to be, what do we mean by “love?”
Last month, Janet and I went to a restaurant in town that was new to us. I’m a hamburger guy, and I had the most amazing mushroom burger there compared to anywhere I’ve been recently. Janet loved her food as well. We talked afterward about how great the service was and how the overall experience was phenomenal. I said to her on the way home, “I think that’s going to be one of my favorite new places. I loved it!” – So…I loved a restaurant.
When my son, Christopher, was 6 years old, he and I went to an air show at the old Carswell Air Force Base in Ft. Worth. Back then, in 1985, it was home to a squadron of B-52 bombers. We saw all kinds of airplanes and military aircraft. One thing they had was a jet fighter. Kids could put on the flight suit, parachute, helmet, and oxygen mask and sit in the cockpit, and for a ‘nominal fee’ (yea right!), a picture would be taken of the boy or girl. Christopher’s eyes lit up when he saw this jet and the flight suit. He never asked me if he could get in the jet. He didn’t have to because his grin said enough. To this day, I do not know how I had the money to pay for him to get in that jet, but today, 30 years later, I am so glad I did for him. Right now, as I write, I am looking at a picture of my 6 year old son in the cockpit of this fighter jet in full regalia of flight suit, parachute, helmet and gloves with his thumb stuck up in the air (Top Gun) and the widest…toothless grin on his face.
That night, when he went to bed, I went in to his room and asked if he had good time that day. He said, “I sure did! It was fun, especially getting into the jet.” Then he said, “I love you daddy.” “I love you too, son.” – So…I love my son.
What do we mean when we say, “I love my church”? What does it mean to love one another? Does God want us to love one another like I loved my experience at the restaurant, or does He want me to love the church like I do my son?
With the restaurant, I was experiencing something given to me, a ‘place’ offering me something. The restaurant fed me and provided a moment in which I could participate. If the experience itself was excellent, I could rate it as, give it a positive review on Yelp, and recommend it to others. If it was the opposite type of experience, I wouldn’t return, and I’d tell others to avoid it.
With my son, I was experiencing an important relationship. My son is someone I am intrinsically connected with. My love for him isn’t based on what I’m receiving or experiencing but based on who he is and what is involved in our relationship, because I love him, I care for him, I played with him, and we go through life together (both then and now). That journey might bring about some not so great experiences, but we work through those. I don’t Yelp my son. I love him.
The church was never meant to be like a restaurant; it’s meant to be based on relationship. This begins, first and foremost, with a relationship with Jesus, and through this relationship, we are connected to one another. In being brought into that relationship, we aren’t only brought into a relationship with Jesus but also into relationship with one another. This is the church!
Many people treat church like a restaurant. If the experience isn’t just to their liking, they’ll find somewhere else or not go at all. This is beyond unfortunate. This sets up expectations for the church that it was never intended to fulfill. Also, and we have to be honest here, this isn’t relationship focused…this is self-focused. This isn’t loving as Jesus loved. This kind of love is as I see fit, I am comfortable with, and for my own gain. The church isn’t supposed to be like that.
You will experience a love for the church when you intentionally love the church. You will have a deep sense of love for the church when you actively and intentionally practice love for the church. The opposite is also true: When you don’t intentionally love the church, then you will not experience a love for the church. We’ll love the church when it is about relationships, not when it is a restaurant.
Do you love your church? Is it a community or just a restaurant?
Live strong this week,
Published on Thursday, February 5, 2015 @ 8:29 AM CDT