If you’ve been around our church or heard me speak at conferences, you’ve probably heard me banging the drum that the church is to be a family, not a business. This is one of our deepest core values, and we want to be vigilant in making sure that our priorities stay aligned with it.
When church is a business, it creates a culture of producers and consumers. The responsibility lies on the few producers to keep generating something that will get the consumers to come back week after week. All the consumers have to do is pay before they leave.
When church is a family, it creates a culture of fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. The responsibility of the fathers and mothers is simply to raise their sons and daughters to be fathers and mothers. Their goal is to train, equip, and raise their children to handle increasing levels of responsibility and reach maturity.
The reason we’re so passionate about church being a family is that we believe that this goal of maturity is God’s number-one purpose in the life of every believer. As a good Father, what He wants more than anything is for us to grow up.
How God Defines Perfection
What is maturity? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us:
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust . . . You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
– Matthew 5:44-45, 48
That word “perfect” (teleios) means “mature, complete, lacking nothing, full-grown, adult.” Jesus is basically saying, “Grow up and be like your Father—by loving people like He does.” He included Himself in this command at the Last Supper: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Maturity ultimately comes down to learning to love people like the Father and Jesus love them. That’s how God defines “perfection,” and it’s His main agenda in our lives.
The Goal of the Rooted Life
In my book, Rooted, I describe how God develops us by planting our lives in the soils of intimacy with Him, community, and serving. Each of these dimensions is critical for us to grow up and learn to love like Jesus, and as a church, we are committed to pursuing a lifestyle of all three.
First and foremost, we pursue intimacy with God by seeking His presence in worship and prayer, both individually and corporately. In the same way that every child learns to walk and talk through daily, ongoing, hands-on interaction with his or her parents, we learn to love by interacting with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We see this in Paul’s famous prayer in Ephesians:
“. . . I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
– Ephesians 3:14-19 (ESV)
When we go to encounter God in worship and prayer, our goal is to grow in comprehending and being filled with His love.
Paul asks the whole Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—to interact with us—to strengthen us, dwell with us, and cause us to be rooted and grounded in their love. Our intimacy with God is where we learn to receive and imitate His love. When we go to encounter God in worship and prayer, our goal is to grow in comprehending and being filled with His love.
Secondly, we pursue a life in community in which Christ’s love sets the standard for our purpose and relationships, and where we are equipped by fathers and mothers in the body who imitate His supernatural ministry of love. A lot of people hear “community” and think of things like neighborhood barbecues and school boards. But the community of the saints is assigned to bring heaven to earth and turn the world upside down. When Jesus loved people, they got healed, set free of sin and shame, restored to relationship with God and others, filled with the Spirit of God, and commissioned to reach the lost with the gospel—and He wants us to do the same. This is why He placed “gifts”—leaders with specific graces on their lives—to equip and teach us to serve effectively and love one another:
“He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ. No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything.”
– Ephesians 4:11-15 (MSG)
Serving is how we love like Jesus
Notice that we need these equipping leaders in our lives so we can learn “skilled servant work.” In the kingdom, serving isn’t a stage of maturity; it’s the pinnacle of maturity. Yes, serving leads to promotion, but every promotion is simply a platform from which to serve more people more effectively. This is why, in our intimacy with God and our community with one another, our number one goal is to learn to serve well. Serving is how we love like Jesus.
Ultimately, the thing that drives us on to maturity is our love for Jesus. We want to become all that Jesus died for—not a bunch of immature, selfish weaklings who need to be spoon-fed, but a strong, mature bride who can run alongside Him as passionate lovers and equal partners in maturity, purity, power, wisdom, beauty, and purpose. As Bill Johnson often says, “Jesus is coming back for a bride whose body is in equal proportion to her Head.” This the Father’s destiny for His sons and daughters, and this is what we’re running after.
This post also appears as a resource on the Jesus Culture Encounter 2018 website – visit now and register for the conference, March 8th-10th in Manchester