REAL LOVE HEALS!
I am heading to my 40th High School Class reunion. If you would have told me as a seventeen-year-old that 40 years later I would be happily married with four adult children, I may have believed you. If you told me that I would live in a small town in the Tennessee hills, I may have thought it possible. But if you would have told me that I would be a veteran pastor…? Well I would have laughed at you hysterically!
God got the last laugh on that one! And I love being a pastor—though these are difficult days in the American Church.
There seems to be three forms of religion prevalent in American Churchdom. They are:
Legalism – church life based on rules of dress and conduct that are taught as requirements for salvation or holiness. Women particularly are relegated to second-class citizens as everything from hair style to speaking or teaching publicly is called into question. In our neck-of-the-woods, legalism runs rampant.
Licentiousness – church life based on a warm and fuzzy sense of love that permits anything, celebrates everything, and calls people to nothing. This form of religion is very popular in mainline churches, such as many United Methodist Congregations.
Lightness – church life based on much the same concept as light beer – same flavor, but less filling. This form of religion calls people to happiness rather than holiness, is program strong and content weak, and flourishes in mega settings as people long for status and influence and significance in a crowd rather than in a deeper walk with Jesus.
What is the appeal of these three ways of church life? They are all simpler than a Biblically full relationship with Jesus—and they allow for more human control, while limiting Godly interaction.
While all these churches are full of good people who are Jesus-loving and heaven bound, they all fail to be what the Book of Acts clearly exposes as the model for the most real expression of church. It is the Acts Church, the First Church, that thrives in most of the Third World, and it is the passion of my heart—planted there by the same God who called me into ministry in the first place—for American Christians to experience.
This fourth form isn’t a “middle way” between the above popular forms of religiousness, because Biblical Church isn’t based on religion at all. I have come to call it:
- Real Love. Church life should be based on a relationship, not a religion. Programming is something businesses do, not Congregations. Legalism and licentiousness are repugnant because they rob people from deep freedom and healing in Jesus. Jesus-Light is troubling because it allows participants to remain infants their entire lives—even if they are outwardly busy doing whatever the latest “world-changing” program calls them to. But Real Love Heals. Real Love calls people into something so much deeper than religion. Real Love demands growth—but not as in following some set of rules. Rather, real love calls “deep unto deep”—calling believers into the deep, deep things of our God! Relationship with God at its best is LOVE-based—not legalism, license, or lightness based.
This is my heart as a pastor. It hasn’t always been easy, but it is right. It is also the heart behind the Real Love Heals Conference. To really love hurting, wounded people, the church must offer something other than legalism, license, or lightness. Wounded souls need the Holy Spirit, not smoke machines, dress codes, or a wink at sin. PLEASE HELP ME get the word out about Real Love Heals – the Conference, and the most authentic form of church!