When I was 18 years old, I began finding my way back to God and the church. What impressed me most about the church I attended was the love I felt when I walked in the door.
Actually, what I was yearning for was God’s unconditional love, which eventually transformed my life. I found this love at church. You might ask what this has to do with leading my church to health and transformation. The answer is everything!
We can Google “how to transform a church” and find many systems, surveys and assessments to help a leader bring a church into revitalization. All these can be good. However, according to Scripture, what might keep a church from effectively reaching and transforming its community is that the church has left its “first love” (Rev 2:4, NASB).
John, in his vision from God, wrote to the church in Ephesus that they did a lot of good things. They toiled and persevered, they would not “tolerate evil men,” they exposed false apostles, and they persevered and endured for Christ’s name’s sake (vv. 2-3). They were missional, faithful and active in ministry deeds. This was a church with good systems, convictions and values, and they could easily craft a good purpose statement.
But they left their first love. By not returning to their first love, they risked having their “lampstand” removed (v. 5). Without a lampstand, the church has no light or source of light. The simple call to the church at Ephesus was “remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first” (v. 5).
I suggest the following three practical points for leaders seeking to lead churches to transformation:
- As leaders, we must return to loving God. We can get lost in the tasks of running a church, serving a community and making disciples, all the while allowing the busyness to keep us from experiencing God’s love and learning to love Him.
- As leaders, we must learn to rest. It is against our nature to rest, yet, in not resting, we never reset our minds, our souls or our bodies. Learning to rest through a weekly Sabbath and an occasional sabbatical helps us return to the love of God and His goodness to us. When I rest, I reset my view about people and grow in compassion for them.
- As leaders, we must teach our churches to love God. Scripture is clear that loving God is our highest command, and loving our neighbor is an overflow of loving Him (Matt. 22:37-39). By teaching individuals to love God, we facilitate their transformation to love their neighbors as themselves, which is the heartbeat of our mission.
I know these things sound simple, but, as a leader, these principles can be too often neglected. It is impossible to have church transformation without a lampstand that produces light. Unless the church returns to loving God first, it stands the risk of having its lampstand removed. May that not be said of us.
At 18 years of age, I found a church (people) where the love of God was so compelling it changed me for forever. May the people in our communities find the church to be overflowing with God’s love!
I invite you to join me on a journey to return to loving Jesus and teaching others to do the same. My prayer for us today is that we would “comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:18-19).