Love the Lord

Published 11:25 am Sunday, February 27, 2022

Recent statistics regarding the spiritual state of our country are alarming:

96% of Americans polled say they believe in God, 41% attend church, 13% of those attending say they have a deep faith, 82% of those polled say they have a desire for spiritual growth and 66% say churches are not effective in helping people find meaning.

96 % say they believe in God. 82% percent say they have a desire for spiritual growth, yet two-thirds say most churches aren’t effective in helping people find that growth. And only 13% of church attendees say they have a deep and transforming faith.

Here is my gut reaction:

1. Some of those statistics have gotten worse. 2. A lot of us struggle to find a deep and transforming faith. 3. I hope and pray our church does better than polls report.

A preacher asks Jesus: “What should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replies, “You’re a preacher. What do you say?” The preacher answers, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength all your mind.’ And, ‘Love others as you love yourself.”

“Right on!” Jesus answers. (Loosely translated from Luke 10:25-28)

There is the heart of what it means to be a Christian and to be the church of Jesus Christ. We come to church to grow in our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The more we grow, the more we mature in our faith. The more we mature, the greater our love for ourselves and others.

Then the preacher in the Scripture asks Jesus: “Exactly who are these others?” Then Jesus tells the famous story of the Good Samaritan. The Good Samaritan who is not religious, displays more love for someone in need than two faith leaders who should know better.

So, how should we as the church respond to the world around us that seems to be moving away from the church while at the same time, seeking spiritual growth? First, we learn to love God with all our heart, soul and mind. Second, we share God’s love to others… all others.

I use a baseball diamond as a guide to chart my spiritual growth and our growth as a church. I start at home plate where my commitment to love and follow Jesus through the church begins.

• First base – Attendance and hospitality. Getting to know and love one another. Our meals and small groups are just as important as our worship.

• Second base – Growth – Digging deeper into your relationship with God and each other. This is a foundation that strengthens you for what’s next.

First and Second base are about learning to love God deeply. This strengthens our foundation so that our service to others is built on a foundation of God’s love. Then we have a better perspective and are less likely to be discouraged by setbacks and disappointments.

• Third Base – Service – Reaching out in the name of Jesus to serve. Now the voice of God is guiding you where you can be most effective.

• Home Plate – Leadership and mentoring others while we spread the Good News by word and deed. You see and enjoy the fruit of your deepened relationship with God.

Third base and home plate are about sharing the love of God with others. A strong foundation allowing you to serve in ever more creative ways secure in the knowledge that God loves you.

This is how Jesus guides our church. He sends us out to announce the kingdom of God is nearby. There will be setbacks and disappointments, but God provides faith to see us through.

Will my deepened faith change the spiritual state of our country as reported in the statistics? Maybe? Maybe not? But God will change me and help our church and that will impact our community. For the country and world? I place my trust in God.

Jesus said: “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your strength, with all your soul. And love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at larrydavies@vaumc.org.