God desires that His people love God. This accords with Jesus’ response when asked about the greatest commandment: “love the Lord your God” (Matthew 22:37). Loving God is pursued by knowing, beholding, and delighting in God. God is described as glorious and delightful in the Bible; the Bible is revelation from God about God. Though the goal is for the church to love God, this only happens as individuals love God personally. A Christian commits himself to know God, not as an end in itself, but to the end that he might grow in love for God. Therefore, the study of God and His ways as revealed in the Bible should be the regular pursuit of a disciple. This reading should be accompanied by meditation on the truths of the Bible, so that our glorious God may be known, beheld, and delighted in. A love for God is understood as primary; the fountain from which a healthy Christian life flows. Also key in the pursuit of the love of God is fervent prayer. A disciple prays that God will cause her to love God more and turn her affections away from all rivals for our affection (idols). Additionally, prayers should be made that God will cause her to have steadfast faith, that God will cause her to walk in a manner worthy, and that God to cause her to love her neighbor.
How ministry pursues loving God:
- Expository preaching: Each sermon is biblically based and seeks to make the point of the sermon be the point of the biblical text.
- Prayer: Each member prays for the spiritual good of themselves and for the individual members of the church.
God desires that His people love their neighbor. This accords with Jesus’ response when asked about the greatest commandment, and replied that the second greatest was: “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Love of neighbor includes many things, but must never neglect evangelism. As John Piper has urged, we must care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering. Love for neighbor must include desire for their good – the greatest good we desire is the salvation of their souls. Loving neighbors happens well as we obey Jesus’ words to “do unto others” (Matthew 7:12). Thus we must care for the needy: for the poor, the widow, and the prisoner. We must show compassion for those who are hurting. We must know, speak with, and minister to those who are hurting and are going through personal struggles (divorce, loss of loved one, wayward child, etc). We must show ourselves to be good friends by get to know our neighbors and coworkers. We should let them know our friendship is not contingent upon them coming to church or becoming a Christian. In this we do make them aware that we desire their salvation above all – yet this will never become necessary for our care and concern. We must be a person of integrity. In this we are careful to not lie, cheat, or steal, but be upright in all we do. This means that as employer or supervisor you will treat all those under you as you would want to be treated by your boss. You will run your business in consideration of those you do business with (those who provide goods, employees, customers), not making the maximization of profits the highest priority at the expense of Christian integrity. As an employee, we will seek by God’s help to be the kind of employee you would want to have if we were the employer (honest, hard working, diligent).
How ministry pursues loving neighbor:
- Allow time for this: The church calendar must allow time for Christians to be away from church to allow them to develop friendships with unbelievers.
- Loving on purpose: Loving neighbors must be emphasized and pursued intentionally.
- Prayer: Relationships with neighbors will achieve spiritual good on as God works through them, thus it must be pursued in prayerful dependence upon God.
Active Church Membership
God desires that His people be gathered in local bodies known as the church. Each member has a responsibility before God to be a disciple-making disciple. Discipleship includes personal spiritual growth, helping others grow spiritually, and proclaiming the Gospel to make new disciples. Each member should seek to be used of God to meet with and spur one another along in spiritual growth, pray that God would grow her love for God and the brethren, and demonstrate love by caring for those who are in need of ministry. Each member should support the work of the ministry through attendance, verbal encouragement, prayers, service, and giving. All members are to love one another. Each member should work toward unity in the church through discouraging gossip (and not personally gossiping), speaking positively about the church and church leaders, personally work toward unity in areas of disunity in which he is involved, humbly confess his sins and offenses to one another in order to pursue reconciliation, and when appropriate, speak with leadership about issues that challenge unity. Our church gatherings are times to express our desire for a greater love for and satisfaction in God, while we cry out to God that He might grant it.
How ministry pursues active church membership:
- Informal Discipleship: Each member should seek to obey God’s command to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). This happens as members befriend each other and get together outside of church for prayer, Bible study, and spiritual encouragement.
- Formal Discipleship: This will happen through the regular ministries of the church: pulpit ministry, Bible studies and Sunday School.
- Active attendance: Each member should not consider himself a consumer at church, but part of God’s means of improving the overall spiritual health of the church. Members will seek to serve wherever there is a need, love and care for all members, and pray for those gathered each week.
- Worship pursuing God: The worship services are a time to express our desire for a greater love for God and pray that He might grant such an increase
Many individual disciples will also be part of a family as a father/husband, mother/wife, or child. God also has expectations for this aspect of the disciple’s life. Each family must take care to be centered on God. A family should make it a priority to study God’s Word together, praise God together, and pray to God together. Collectively the members of the family should work for the spiritual good of all family members. In pursuing this, each member must be slow to take offense at the sins of one another, be quick to confess your sins and repent, and work to be used of God to help other family members battle sin and experience victory over sin by the power of God.
How ministry pursues Christian families:
- Intentional family worship: Families will seek to make God’s Word and prayer a regular part of family life. This need not include a daily sermon, but families should aim for regular reading of the Bible and prayer.
- Humility and forgiveness: Each family member must recall his own sin, humbly confess it, and seek forgiveness when appropriate. The offended member must be quick to forgive, mindful of his own sin, and a desire to be used of God to minister grace to the offending party.