The Beatles once infamously claimed in a 1966 interview that they were more popular than Jesus. When you look at the declining church in the Western world, particularly in what they call mainline churches (which includes us Anglicans) you may be tempted to believe there might have been some substance to their claim. As we are about to launch into the week ahead and the ‘Festival of Love’ that Valentine’s Day has become (that’s right it is next Thursday if you need to mark it in your diary), I’m pretty sure one of the Beatle’s best known tracks will be on high rotation – ‘All You Need Is Love’
John Lennon might have been horrified to know that he shared a lot in common with St Paul who also believed that all the church needs is love.
Last weekend I preached on the famous ‘Love Is’ passage. If you missed it, I would encourage you to have a listen. In the message I made the scandalous claim that this passage is not romantic at all & probably shouldn’t be the first choice for weddings – even though Leanne & I, along with the vast majority of couples married in churches have chosen and continue to choose this passage.
Paul’s challenge to the church is for us to love more and love like this – he then lists the characteristics of what love is and what love is not. If you need familiarisation with them look up 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.
I don’t think the problem of church decline has anything to do with the popularity of Jesus. Andy Stanley in his latest book ‘Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World’ makes this statement:
“People don’t generally leave the church or faith because of Jesus”
People, however, often leave the church or faith because of something said, done, or unsaid or undone by people who say they believe in Jesus.
People who don’t go to church and people who claim to have no faith still have quite a high regard for the person of Jesus in history… that is if they are prepared to acknowledge him as a person who actually did live.
The real problem is that we don’t always love as we have been commanded to: to love one another as Jesus has loved us.
It is important to be romantic when it is important to be romantic, and expressing the love that we are encouraged to express on Valentine’s Day is also important. But this type of love isn’t the only type of love that we need to be concerned about.
Love is all the actions that St Paul reminds us of, in what has become to many, just a sentimental poem. So perhaps it’s time for the church to take the sentimentality out of it & start to really live it out. Sure it’s okay to buy roses & chocolates this week but it’s much better to be patient, kind, to not be envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, or insist on your own way; not be irritable, resentful or rejoice in wrongdoing, It’s much better to rejoice in the truth, bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things.
All we need for our church to continue to grow IS love, St Paul’s type of love, which is the way Jesus loved & the way God loves us.
Happy Love Fest 2019!