Many-Sided Love
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Many-Sided Love
Page 34

Love HeartHere we have in Saint Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 13.4,5 a definition of "many-sided love." "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered." Again Saint Paul writes from his own experience in 1 Corinthians 13.11, "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me." This love is best when mature.

Evangelizing the World

MouthDr. James Kennedy, (1930-2007 AD) founder of The Evangelism Explosion and himself the pastor of a very successful church described two possible ways to evangelize the world. The first is to hold a series of crusades. If there are one thousand people who commit themselves to Christ every night, and this happens not just for a week or for a month but years and years, the church would grow. The number of Christians, however, would not even keep pace with the birth rate. This is a simple definition of the technical phrase, "addition growth." A better way is where one brings one to Christ, where a friend brings another friend and so on. This is "multiplication growth."

Multiplication Evangelism Growth

man talking on phoneMultiplication evangelism growth is the kind of church growth desired by Christ rather than addition, subtraction or division. Multiplication evangelism growth is real evangelism one by one. If just one person brought another to a commitment to Christ each week and that person did the same for someone else the next week, that is multiplication evangelism growth. In theory, in thirty-two years, the whole population of the world could become Christian by this method. Of course, a theory is a divine possibility, practicality is something else.

Early Church Growth

Church Family IllustrationThe Early Church growth record began with the phrase in Acts 2.46-7 "Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." We noted here the phrase "The Lord added to their number daily." Later, in Acts 6.1a we read, "In those days when the number of disciples was increasing." This rapid evangelistic expansion can be called multiplication growth. Contrast this with the actual growth pattern of many of our Western churches today. We could describe North American mainstream church growth as subtraction or even division unlike parts of Africa, China, South Korea and South America where evangelism growth continues strongly today.

Growth Pattern

Multiplication SignOur current trend in the Western Church was in many cases not an addition but subtraction. In North America, the trend was to close and sell any church which could not pay its bills. This was not always the case when many new churches were supported by their neighboring congregations. In Africa, China and South America there was still rapid evangelism growth taking place. There were more Christians in China now than in the whole of Europe. In contrast, most mainline churches such as the Episcopal, Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches in North America have shrunk about twenty percent over the last ten years, and will possibly continue to do so in the foreseeable future, even though the population has grown ten percent over the same period! Some people put it down to a demographic change and while this may be true the bigger factor I believe is the collapse of the secular society which has built up in the last thirty or more years.

Africa and China

Stained Glass Window of Holy SpiritThis shrinking of congregations is a huge challenge for all of us today, particularly in the USA, Canada, and Britain. Contrast this with the rapid growth taking place in Africa with one diocese reporting opening up a new church every week and in South Korea where thousands belong to one church in the house church movement.✞

Early Church Denominations

Image of Star of DavidJewish and Gentile Christians were the very first of the Early Church denominations. Denominations are defined by their differences. Forms of government, specific beliefs and charismatic leadership are just some of the distinctions between church groups called denominations. At Corinth, there was a schism between several parties who followed different Christian leaders. In 1 Corinthians 3.4-6 we read, "For when one says, 'I follow Paul,' and another, 'I follow Apollos,' are you not mere human beings? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe - as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow." These differences were sometimes important to bind together groups but at other times were also divisive. One of the earliest church controversies concerned the Jewish and Gentile Christians who became effectively the first denominations. This arose over the fact that some Gentiles were eating meat offered to idols and were therefore criticized by their Jewish brethren who wanted them to keep all the Law's ceremonies and regulations especially those concerning the blood of animals. On the other hand, Gentile Christians felt that the new church should lay aside the limiting traditions of Judaism to win new followers.

First Splits

Image of armIn the opening words of in Acts 6.1 we read that "In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food." At this stage of its development, the church was entirely Jewish in its composition. There were however two groups of Jews within the fellowship. Grecian Jews who were Hellenists and born in lands other than the Holy Land. They spoke the Greek language and were more Grecian than Hebraic in their attitudes and outlook. Hebraic Jews, on the other hand, were those who spoke Palestinian Aramaic or Hebrew and preserved Jewish culture and customs. Food help was needed by widows who had no one to care for them and so became the church's responsibility. Hellenistic Jews who had adopted the Greek language and culture complained that the Greek widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. These two denominations squabbled over solutions to these basic issues and remind us of the recent squabbling between their modern Jewish and Arab counterparts in the Middle East over possession of parts of Jerusalem. Christ, however, breaks down the wall which divides Jews and Gentiles in himself. He brings both together into one Body. Denominations need to know that in Jesus as in Galatians 3.28, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

Jesus World Love

DoveEvangelism relates to Jesus World love. 'Without love,' said Saint Paul, 'I am a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.' Being in Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit unifies God's people. Saint Paul wrote in Philippians 2.1-2, "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose." Matthew 22.35-40 adds to this from the lips of Jesus himself, "One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?' Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.'"

Practical Jesus Love

Jesus FaceIn his letter to the Corinthian Church, Saint Paul was concerned to show the truth of the words in the song, "What the world needs now is love, sweet love." This kind of Jesus love needs to be practical, long-suffering and dedicated.

Same Love

EarsChristian love is meant to be generous when famine or tragedy sweeps through another country. It means listening to each other's concerns and giving your full attention to someone who is talking to you. Love is better than spiritual gifts Saint Paul concludes in 1 Corinthians 13.1-3. Without Jesus' love, gifts are no use, "If I speak in the tongues of men and angels but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." What use is that?

"Many-Sided Love"
by Ron Meacock © 2019

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