One of the most compelling scenes in all the Bible is the moment when Jesus meets Simon Peter on the beach, after his resurrection (John 21). Memories of Peter’s abysmal failures hang in the air like the morning fog.
The sting that comes when one person betrays another and then has to look them in the eyes once again. Can you see them standing there? Their eyes meet. Peter looks away.
Then Jesus speaks, “Peter do you love me?”
Peter responds, “Lord, you know if I do or don’t…I am not sure how to even answer this. I told you I did before, but I failed you. So how can you or I believe anything I would say right now?”
Then the reply, ‘Feed my sheep. Take care of my lambs. Feed my sheep”
Three times this exchange takes place, and three times Jesus answers Simon Peter with an assignment.
Can I paraphrase like this?
‘show me how much you love me, peter, by loving that which i love most…my sheep.’
There are so many reasons why I LOVE THE CHURCH, but no reason is greater than the fact that JESUS LOVES HIS CHURCH, and He asks me to pour everything I have into feeding, and caring for his people.
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Over the years, I have heard some say,
“I really like Jesus and everything he taught, but I just feel like I can’t belong to a church.”
“Church is just not for me. I am a very spiritual person, but I just don’t believe in the church.”
My response is basically, how is this even possible? You cannot say you love Jesus and want to follow him with your life, if you also say that you reject ‘the church.”
It would be like saying, “Jeff, I really love you and love being around you, but I cannot stand your wife, Melodie. And I really don’t enjoy any of your five children.” Honestly, if you don’t like my wife and family, then we probably won’t have a very deep friendship. Even though you profess to love me as a person, I would have to say I have my doubts about your sincerity, because how can you love me and not care for that which is more important to me than anything else in the world?
#1 – when i choose to pour my life into god’s people, i bring great pleasure to the heart of god.
A few years ago, my sister was traveling on a ministry team, and ended up stranded in Japan. My parents called a friend of theirs, who was a missionary there and then went several hours out of their way to help my sister and get her on her way. I remember my folks and their response. They never forgot that kindness. They gushed with appreciation for those missionaries. They sent finances to increase their support.
If you take care of my family, you touch my heart in a very powerful way.
#2 – when i choose to plant new churches, i bring honor to the cross!
Over the past twenty years, God has given me the opportunity to help launch church planters into their dream of establishing a brand new church. Our network has now planted more than 120 new churches around the country. Investing in these new churches is an active partnership with the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
In 2013, we planted two new churches in Boston on the same day. My wife and I traveled from Pittsburgh to Boston, and sat in the congregation for both of these churches and their Grand Opening service. I will never forget watching, as the service concluded in one of these churches. The church planter asked if anyone there wanted to give their lives to Christ.
Sitting next to me was a single mom and her 12-year-old son. Both of them had their eyes closed as they waited prayerfully for what was next. When the church planter asked them to raise their hands if they wanted Jesus, both of them shot their arms in the air, independent of the other’s moment of decision. It was beautiful.
i sat there with tears streaming down my face
Not only because these two were having their names inscribed, at that moment, in the Book of Life. I also realized that now this momma had a local church in which to raise her son. She had a church family now to surround her, stand with her, and support her.
A year later, when I visited that new church, there she was, all smiles, with her son sitting next to her in worship.
#3 – when i choose to give myself to the church, i join a revolution to change the world.
Bill Hybels is famous for saying:
“the local church is the hope of the world!”
I believe that, and I have watched it happen.
One of our church plants was located in a town that was completely flooded because of severe storms that struck the city back in 2003. This local church went to work to raise funds, collect furniture, house, and feed people whose homes were under water and in repair for several months.
Another of our church plants, is located right in the heart of the city where many homeless gather and sleep. Every week, these young adults scour the streets caring for, feeding, and clothing those in need.
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Another of our church plants (CityReach) has now become a movement of churches that is designed to reach the one person who everyone else has overlooked or forgotten. Many of these churches operate Hope Homes, as a free place to stay, as men and women journey through a program to get free from drugs and other addictions.
there is no group of people on earth quite like the church!
And this is why I absolutely and unequivocally am passionate about God’s people. For me, there is nothing I would rather do than lead and be part of what Jesus is doing on planet earth through his church.
This story was a part of a series called #ChurchSwoon to celebrate the launch of Church VIP and all that God is up to at churches everywhere. Share what God is doing at your church in the comments below.