Last Saturday I was invited by the Omagh Presbytery (Presbyterian Church in Ireland) to be the keynote speaker at their annual elders’ conference.
My title was ‘Love and the Mission of the Church’ and breakout sessions discussed implications personally, among elder teams, for local churches and loving neighbours. Rev Terry Laverty also spoke on Romans 5:5.
Thanks to Rev David Cupples and First Omagh for their hospitality. It was a really encouraging day with about 100 elders there.
Here are the headings I used as a framework which give a flavour of the day.
THESIS 1: LOVE IS A RELENTLESS COMMITMENT TO OTHERS’ WELL BEING
Covenant love. Friendship love.
THESIS 2: ‘GOD IS LOVE’ HAS BECOME ‘LOVE IS GOD’
Love as the religion of our Western age
THESIS 3: OUR CULTURE INCREASINGLY SEES CHRISTIANITY AS OPPOSED TO LOVE
Both ‘internally’ (divided churches) and ‘externally’ (judgmentalism, exclusion, intolerance) Christianity is seen as antithetical to love
THESIS 4: LOVE IS ESSENTIAL FOR THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE CHURCH IN A POST-CHRISTENDOM CULTURE
No room, or reason, for self-pity, a persecution complex, naively thinking that ‘success’ in mission will come from getting externals right. Not our job to try to ‘win back’ the culture. The calling of the church is first and foremost to authenticity
THESIS 5: WE ARE FIRST AND FOREMOST LOVERS
We worship what we love (J K A Smith following Augustine).
THESIS 6: THE LOVE OF GOD IS THE CORE STRAND OF THE BIBLE (around which the next two strands are entwined)
OT to NT – divine love shown without partiality, without merit, with a relentless commitment to his people. Culminating in Gods’ ‘great love’ in Jesus Christ (Eph 2:4)
THESIS 7: HUMAN LOVE FOR GOD IS COSTLY AND TRANSFORMATIVE
OT to NT, God’s people are love as they have been loved. A community of love and justice; thankfulness, obedience, worship and joy, experiencing the love of God in the Spirit (Rom 5:5). Wholehearted love for God, whatever the cost.
THESIS 8: LOVE IN COMMUNITY IS GOD’S ULTIMATE AGENDA FOR HIS PEOPLE
Love is not a nice by-product of the gospel, love is the whole point.
‘The only thing that counts is faith working through love’Galatians 5:6
Love for one another. Love for neighbour – who is an enemy. Forgiveness of those who have sinned against us. Love as God’s weapon in his cosmic war with sin, death and evil. Love as a foretaste of the future kingdome come in the present.
Love as imitation of Jesus:
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.Eph 5:1-2
One thought on “Love and the Mission of the Church”
Someone needs to talk to the PCI hierarchy ! Great post Patrick