There is nothing more beautiful than young love. There is nothing more awkward than middle age love. There is nothing cuter than old age love. I have been two of the three and I have witnessed the third. This does not make me an expert in the field but it does allow me to write about my observations and conclusions. Now you have been warned about the anecdotal rather than scientific nature of this post so read on at your own risk!
Young love – difficult to tame and to hide.
They are in love and everyone can see it. They hold hands during their numerous romantic strolls to nowhere. They gaze into each other’s eyes as if the secrets of the universe were being revealed with each blink. They smooch and hug, giggle and flirt, there is no mistake this is young love and it is on display for all to see. They can’t help themselves, it just comes naturally and besides that, they are young and have nowhere to be and nothing to do so why not enjoy each other’s company while they still have time.
Middle age love – is just difficult and awkward.
They are in love but it is different. Holding hands is a luxury that time does not often permit and romantic strolls are limited to the aisles of the grocery store. Any displays of affection are usually interrupted by one of the children needing help or commenting on how gross mommy and daddy are being. They look into each other’s eyes to reveal that which is not known like how bad the infection is or if there appears to be a cataract forming. They do smooch and hug, giggle and flirt but that is only when they can make the time and it usually lasts no more than a minute before one or the other drifts off to sleep. They are in love, make no mistake about it, it’s just difficult to find the time and it makes everyone feel awkward when it is displayed publicly.
Old age love – is cute and it is difficult.
They are in love and, as time and health permits, everyone can see it. They hold hands during their not so numerous romantic strolls, mostly because they need to hold each other up but then isn’t that what people do who are in love? They gaze into each other’s eyes, there are no secrets being revealed just memories being rekindled. They still smooch and hug, giggle and flirt, it is not easy and takes a lot of effort but there is no mistake these are the actions of old age love and it is on display for all to see. They can’t help themselves, it just comes naturally after all they have been doing it since they took their first romantic stroll to nowhere so many years ago.
Desire is the by-product of love.
Time may change how it is expressed, circumstances may dictate the limits of this expression, but love driven desire overflows for all to see. If you asked why do you act the way you do, you would hear because of love. They don’t do it because they have to but rather because they want to or more accurately, they do it because their emotional attachment drives them. It is simply the natural response to being in love.
It’s not out of duty but out of love driven desire.
Recently I have been reflecting on the things pastors and leaders say in defence of themselves, the things I have said, the things I now try to correct as I work with churches in transition. (see: The Shepherd Focuses on the Sheep – Consumer Christianity and the Church Hopper – Church Worship Fails – On Whose Authority?)
In the last 20-30 years there has been a push to improve the evangelistic endeavours of the church. Resources have been reassigned from programs in the church to programs in the community. I was one of those who saw it this way and promoted not only a push to reach out but also a push to make it the number one priority. From worship to Wednesday programing from Christmas and Easter productions to music schools and food banks, everything was an outreach opportunity.
Sounded good but the results were less than desirable.
We made programs the priority and those who attended programs the target. People would start to attend church because of the programs making it look like we were having success. The problem was, programs not God became the purpose of the church. People never grew beyond their attraction to the good things those “God people” were doing. Their understanding of what Christ followers are and what new Christ followers should be was tied to program creating and volunteering.
We created a church of people passionate about programs, until they weren’t.
You can change programs or the way a program is done but at some point there will be something better somewhere else. If you attract people to something that has limited growth potential beyond its original design it will eventually become unattractive.
Duty or Desire?
I am not against programs but I am against presenting the gospel out of duty. What if we focused our efforts on the continued growth of the Christ follower? What if the church environment produced such passion, such desire, such love that programs or personal interaction looked like young love, difficult to tame, difficult to hide?
Programs on their own make people ask about your organization – passion and desire driven by love for God makes people ask about your outlook on life.
…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have… 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)
No need to be prepared if you give people no reason to ask!
Note: Churches who don’t reach out die – Churches who don’t disciple die.