Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Perfect Love

1 John 4:18 (New International Version, ©2010)

18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Fear is a great motivator, but it is not a saving one. Fear can generate many things, but it cannot generate the gospel’s core: love. First John 4:18 is not engaging in sophistry when it says, “There is no fear in love.” It is telling the truth about Christian discipleship. It is telling the truth to purveyors and provocateurs of fear, whether inside or outside the church. Fear relies on the threat of death in relationship, spirit, or body. The gospel of Jesus Christ relies on fear’s nullification: God’s gracious promise of life.

~ John Indermark
Do Not Live Afraid

From page 11 of Do Not Live Afraid: Faith in a Fearful World by John Indermark. Copyright & copy; 2009 by John Indermark. All rights reserved.

The above was my Monday email devotional from the Upper Room Daily Reflections.
I've been in churches where the basic theme has been, 'scare the hell out of them, and get them saved'.  This is merely 'fire insurance' and more often than not, you will see no actual growth or spiritual development in either the church or the person who made a profession out of fear. 
I've experienced comments from the leadership of said churches that sounds something like this:

"We had 203 decisions for the Lord this past year and 75 new members."
I ask, "Where are they now?"
Have we loved them?  Have we discipled them? Have we helped to lead and guide them into a greater and deeper relationship with the Lord?  Or have we then taken this new convert and overwhelmed them with even more guilt, fear and/or placed them in a position of leadership and basically set them up for failure?  Then we may wonder what happened to them when they quit coming to church.
People are not perfect. Church leadership is not perfect.  The only perfection that exists is love ~ the perfect love as expressed and manifested through Christ Jesus.  I don't wish to have statistics handed to me in the form of an Annual Report.  I wish to see lives changed through the power of Christian love.
I don't think we should "GO" to church.  I think we should "BE" the church. What are your thoughts?
And so I pray:  
Abba, Father... help me to focus on the Christ and not those seated in the pews.  Allow me to feel the very presence of You while I sit in the pew or even in my car while driving to work.  Fill me with Your Spirit and allow me to discern those to whom I may minister encouragement to.  Even so, my Lord ~Amen!