My wife, Nancy, and I used to lead a church over in Durango that was just a little different as churches go. We held our worship out in a place called Horse Gulch, or in a park or, later, in the soup kitchen. As a result we were always talking about what our church was not about. We were not about a building. We were not about the numbers of people in worship on Sunday morning. We were not about money. We were not about a certain style of worship or about the music. The trouble with such statements is that we defined ourselves in negative terms and we came to realize that we did not know, really, what we “were” about.
So how do we define success in the church? It was then we hit upon the passage in Galatians 5: 22-23 that talks about the fruit of the Spirit. Now, like many others we could quote those verses right off the top of our heads any time we were asked. But it didn’t dawn on us just how important these verses are for discovering what success means for the Christian. It was about that time we read a book ‘The Greatest Thing in the World’ by Henry Drummond (now posted on my web site) – one of the great books on the greatest subject — love. In it Drummond breaks down the various elements of love found in 1 Corinthians 13 as if they were being run through a prism.
As you know when you run light through a prism the light is broken down into its basic color elements called a spectrum. A spectrum of light. When we use a prism on Galatians 5:22-23 we see that love (the first Christian quality spoken of in those verses) is broken up into several other basic elements: joy, peace, patience or long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Together we call these the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ and I would like to add one more to this list: Forgiveness. I know it’s a little audacious to be adding anything to the Apostle Paul’s list here, but I’m sure that just like the others forgiveness can only be found through the Spirit.
English has one word for love but Greek has three: Phileo love is the love of a brother (because they also love you. Philadelphia is the city of brotherly love). Eros is romantic love – loving others because there is something lovable about them. They are beautiful. Have a great personality, or what have you. And, Agape love. Agape love is love of others because God has also created them and has a purpose for their life just as He does my own. Agape love is a choice, not a feeling. It is the highest order of love. It “is” Christian love.
From love, then, we refract the light into its various parts or components:
Think about what it means (really think about it now) to be joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and to be self-controlled. If these things are growing in your life you are a successful Christian. If these things are growing in the midst of your congregation, then you are successful as a congregation.
I was asked this week what is the ‘goal’ of One Church Pagosa Springs. Well, for my part, I would like to tell everyone in this community the good news about Jesus Christ. I would like to see them all join a local congregation. And I would like to see the fruit of the Spirit growing in each and every one so that the Kingdom continues to grow in our town. As far as the One Church Movement itself, who am I to impose ‘goals’ on Father God Jehovah? I cannot and I will not. I pray that His will be done here on earth just as it is in heaven. Amen.
For more about One Church Pagosa and more of my writing, please go to www.jamesdsanderson.com.
Send in your faith articles to email@example.com (500-800 words).