Love with Skin On
My brother Jeff just called in the middle of writing this blog. We gabbed for forty-five minutes about a boatload of topics. As siblings, Jeff and I are very different. He loves hunting and fishing, I love writing and beauty. In wintertime he wears shorts and a T-shirt, I wear three or four layers of clothing. He’s lived in small-town America his whole life; I’ve followed my hubby in an adventurous, wild-blue-yonder lifestyle.
When we were kids we fought like heavyweight contenders. Now that we’re adults, we’ve put away the boxing gloves and we get along pretty well.
So, here's the question I was writing about when Jeff's call came:
When we think of the church,
is it an institution,
or is it a family?
If it’s a (healthy) family—its primary focus will be relationships.
If it’s an institution—its primary focus will be accomplishing goals.
A church needs BOTH relationships and goals. But the primary focus of the church determines what is given priority in terms of passion, time, & energy.
If we believe the church is a family, we’ll give priority to loving each other and helping each family member mature to his or her full potential, even while we work together to accomplish common goals.
However, if we believe the church is an institution, we’ll give priority to accomplishing objectives and goals, and the growth and maturation of people in the institution will occur for the sake of advancing those objectives and goals.
Made In God’s Image
Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit aren't the first institution; they’re the first family. They made human beings in their image—as family.
God is the “Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name” (Eph. 3:14). It’s through the Holy Spirit that we’re all adopted into God’s family, with Jesus as our oldest brother (Romans 8).
Yes, we all have goals, objectives & destinies that we are to carry out (Ephesians 2:10). But God’s heart for all of us in the church is that we would know Him as our Father, and that we’d reach our full potential as His children. He wants every single one of us to walk in His love and to succeed wildly! He also wants us as brothers and sisters in the church to love each other deeply, to champion each other, to encourage each other toward our full potential.
When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, the effect in the believer’s lives was to move them out of an institution and into family. After Pentecost, the believers loved, shared, worshiped, and ate together in deep fellowship with the Holy Spirit and with each other (Acts 2). Rather than the institutionalized, synagogue-based gatherings, in the new wineskin of "church," believers became a spiritual family.
It was the same in 1701 in Herrnhut, Germany, when the presence of the Spirit of God fell on the believers there, and “peace and love” became the marks of a community that had formerly been rife with division and backbiting.
As in Herrnhut, when God’s Spirit comes in Pentecost-style, mission will always be part of the outcome. We can’t be radically encountered by God’s Spirit and fail to reach out. But the FIRST priority when God comes is never mission, outreach, or objectives. God’s priority will always be His family.
Like God’s Spirit, relationship as family should always be our priority as the church. And out of our deep love and nurturing of each other, truly anointed missional outreach will happen. When we look like the love of the Father for Jesus & we look like the love of Jesus for the Father, people of the world will come running to us, hungry to experience what we carry!
And we'll be love with skin on.