Practice Love

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With only two words, she rocked my world. In a sentence I don’t remember, within a presentation I can barely remember, Dr. Brené Brown rocked my world. A handful of Lodi CoG7’s leaders and I were attending last summer’s Global Leadership Summit at a satellite location. In a line that I doubt was even in her prepared notes, Dr. Brown, one of the GLS presenters, put two words together that grabbed my attention and imagination like the flash of a falling star across the inky blackness of a desert’s night sky. She said, “Practice love.”

What a thought! Lawyers practice law. Physicians practice medicine. Christ followers practice love — or at least they ought to. I soon had large and small banners strung through our church’s meeting place, all proclaiming “Practice Love.”

In God’s providence, this did not take place in a vacuum. With members of the church board, I am constantly evaluating and reevaluating our congregation’s statements of purpose. Cary Downey, a local elder, kept calling our attention back to those two commandments Jesus proclaimed to be the first and second greatest of them all: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind [and] ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39, NKJV).

During the same time, I was reviewing Patrick Lencioni’s book The Advantage for another assignment. Within it I found what Lencioni calls “Six Critical Questions”[i] that must be answered in order for any organization to achieve organizational clarity and good health. We began working to answer those questions with regard to our own congregation. We exist to demonstrate our love to God and God’s love to people. We practice love. We (in the words of Bob Goff, another GLS presenter) “Love God, love people, and do stuff!”

Another book came to our attention — Simple Church, by Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger. This book, the result of the authors’ study of Christian both struggling and thriving congregations, concludes that thriving congregations have something in common: a process by which people can grow to spiritual maturity.There is clarity about why the congregation exists, what it does, and the way in which it does it. There is an intentional and consistent effort to encourage and cause movement of people to greater involvement in the church and greater spiritual maturity in the Lord. There is an intentional and consistent alignment of every facet of the congregation around its purpose and process and a continuing focus upon maintaining this clarity, movement, alignment, and focus.

As God leads us along this path to wherever He’s taking us (it seems far too focused and consistent to be a coincidence!), we at Lodi CoG7 are noticing the importance of purpose, which seems to relate to identity and divine calling, and of process, which seems to relate to strategic planning and actions. As a congregation (largely through my sermons), we have been studying the two greatest commandments, biblical ways to express our love to God and God’s love to people, and the very characteristics of godly love. An adult Sabbath school class is helping us learn and apply what we can from the works of Joseph Grenny, who suggests six key ways to influence human behaviors, and of Simon Sinek, who encourages us to consistently ask and answer the question “Why?”

Where is God taking Lodi CoG7? To a good place, I think. I’m enjoying the ride! After almost thirty-three years of pastoral ministry, I’m more than happy to keep it simple: Seek God, serve people; practice love.

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