Many of you who know me personally know that I am the youth pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Greensboro, Alabama. If you have had any meaningful dialogue with me on key theological issues then you know that I am not truly Methodist. You may be wondering right now, why would I begin an article titled, “What I Love About My Church” in a way such as this? Well the answer I give may or may not be satisfactory to you, but I’ll give it my best shot.
When the rich young ruler asked Jesus about the greatest commandment, Jesus told him to love God with his entire heart mind and strength, and the second greatest commandment is like it, and that is to love your neighbor as yourself. You see, love is more than a mere emotion. According to Jesus love is the greatest commandment. The Apostle Paul also called love the greatest spiritual gift.
The reason I love my church is quite simple actually. My church loves people with the love of Christ. Whether it is through missions and giving, or just welcoming a new face on Sunday morning, I constantly see my church living out the greatest commandment of scripture. The even more beautiful thing is that the love I see being shown is not the cheap imitation of love. No, it’s the real stuff. It’s the kind of love that Paul says is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. It’s the kind of love that abounds equally in hard times and in rejoicing. It’s the kind of love that does not boast and is not proud.
My church shows the willingness to serve its members in a loving way. I’ll never forget how amazed I was when our pastor started taking prayer requests for the first time. He had been in our community for only a few weeks, but he remembered almost every situation from the weeks before. It was clear that he had been praying intimately for each of those requests throughout the week. So many churches in a here and now society can quickly become drive thru religion. The attitude can become something like this; “Okay, I’m here for my weekly dose of Jesus,” then it’s off to Sunday lunch. We are always seeking to be fed, but as the body of Christ, loving and pouring into others is equally as important.
Greensboro FUMC has taught me a great deal about what it means to love your neighbor and invest in their lives. In today’s seeker-friendly church world, it’s so easy to get caught up in things that divide us that we fail to focus on the unity that Christ prayed for in his high priestly prayer in John 17 when he prayed that we (believers) would be one. We know that a kingdom divided cannot stand, but a kingdom united in the love of Christ will prosper, because Christ loves his bride (the church), and he upholds her. President Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.” At my church I feel like the questions are rarely what can the church do for us, but what can we do for the glory of God.
Are there differences in what I believe and what my church believes? Of course! Isn’t that pretty much always the case? There are no perfect people, so in a world where sin is present there will never be a perfect church. I will be the first to tell you that I am extremely zealous for the preaching of God’s absolute sovereignty. And yes, the term prevenient grace still makes me cringe. However, as long as my church continues to love others the way that they have loved me, I know Greensboro First United Methodist Church will continue to bless people in our community and continue to grow in the grace of our Lord Jesus.