Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mission: Simple

"We need to get back to simple", says Steven Land. 

It was good to hear Dr. Land guest speaking last Sunday (in the p.m. service at North Cleveland Church of God). President of Pentecostal Theological Seminary, he is one of those rare scholar/intellectual theologians who haven’t forgotten how to speak a down-to-earth message for the church – timely, urgent, refreshing.

[Please note, it is unfair to say what follows is a summary of the message last Sunday. It is not. Rather, it reflects how the message set me to thinking. I don’t want to discredit or misrepresent Dr. Land with my ramblings.]

I was reminded; the urgent message/mission is simple. The broad field of study for Scripture and theology is deep, dense and complex as any other field of study, enough to challenge the greatest minds in history, and deserves to be explored with passion and academic diligence. But, if we allow it, the basic message serves to keep us on task (focused and faithful) in the midst or our studies, ministry, living, etc.

What is the basic message/mission? Some would say it is a matter of ethics and has to do with the failing moral foundations of our society. The basic message does speak to this, and failing morality forecasts a world of hurt and pain. It is impossible to estimate the loss due to our sins. An honest survey can leave you sickened with a dark sense of gloom.

As important as moral behavior is, it is not the most basic element for living and it is not self-sustaining. Many a tyrant trample others under foot for the sake their own perceived sense of morality. Morality is not the starting point and is (in and of itself), an insufficient end.

As basic as morality is, there is something more basic/primary and proves to be a more reliable guide – Love. Loving God and loving others…it doesn’t get any more basic, any more primary, any more foundational. In fact, Jesus says you can sum up “the Law and Prophets” with these two commandments (Mt. 22:40).

Get it right though; this love is more than gooey feelings. This love is a noun and a verb. This love is a doing and a restraining from doing. This love dictates how we live, what we say, how we invest our resources, etc. Love is not indifferent to morality. Yes, this love will order morality. If morality rules primary, morality can become a tyrannical dictator. But when love reigns morality simply follows quietly and mightily behind.

If I relate to the world primarily from my sense of ethics, then we are likely at an impasse and things are irreconcilable as my ethic stands against the world. If I relate to the world in love, then love stands against the evil and yet for the world (i.e., for a world of people).

Of course I am not saying love is important and ethics are not. Just know this, you can exercise your sense morality without promoting love, but you cannot exercise love without promoting morality. Always remember, Jesus connects love with ethics; “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

To be sure, Jesus’ commands are counter-cultural, but as believers our mission in the world is not to enforce morality. It is to serve the world in love. The greatest lift in morality came via Christ’s self-sacrifice on the cross. He so loved the world that he gave himself. Enough said. Morality followed in heaps.

This simple referent does not permit us to ignore the agonizing complexities of our dark and crumbling world, nor does it excuse our tendency to oversimplify the rich denseness in theology that invites our wonder and pursuit, but it does serve to keep us on task. It will keep us from getting lost with our head in the clouds as we ponder beauty and mystery. At the same time it will save us from being so overwhelmed with the hard realities of a distorted world that we become paralyzed or disengaged, abandoning mission.

Keeping the command to love will serve as our north star as we navigate both the treacherous and the beautiful – back to simple, stay the course.

P.S. For your library;  To begin his message, Dr. Land made a number of references to John Dickerson's The Great Evangelical Recession, The 6 Factors that Will Crash the American Church...and How to Prepare. 

I have not read this book yet, but my copy is on order. Also, I don't make anything from the sales of this book, but I will pick one person, at random, who comments on this post and I will send them my copy when I finish reading. I only ask that you pass it on after you read it. Thanks. (To leave a comment, just click on _comment: below.)



  1. I agree with everything you have said. Love is everything, but we humans don't get it right nor do we fully comprehend the way God loves us, how we are to love God, and how we are to love us. But that is why we need Jesus, our savior and redeemer.


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