Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor. 13:13)
At the Last Supper, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and told them to serve others in like manner. He then said he was giving them “a new command.” I’m sure that perked their ears. He already had talked about the two great commandments of the law—to love God and to love others as yourself—but now he introduced something new:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)
You can be sure the disciples paid close attention to what Jesus said, and we should as well.
Jesus’ new command poses an important question: If we are to love others as he loves us, how exactly does Jesus love us? The simple answer is that Jesus loved us by coming and meeting us right where we are. He shared his life with us, died for us, included us in his ascension to the Father enabling us to join him in worship, and now lives in us through the Holy Spirit.
The greatest gift we can give others is to follow Jesus in laying down our life for them. We do so in many ways, including by sharing with them the faith, hope and love of Jesus given us by the Spirit. What is our motivation for doing so? Note what the apostle Paul wrote:
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view…. (2 Cor. 5:14-16)
As followers of Jesus, we no longer live for ourselves. Motivated (“compelled”) by our Lord’s sacrificial love, we reach out to others. As a congregation we engage the community around our church. We do so knowing that these people are God’s beloved—though most don’t know they have a Father who adores them, an elder brother who has paved the way for them, and a Holy Spirit who teaches and comforts them by pointing them to Jesus.
Our outreach, along with our worship and discipleship, occurs within and through what we refer to as the three venues of ministry: the love venue (witness), the hope venue (worship) and the faith venue (discipleship). By venue, we mean the environment where a particular aspect of congregational ministry occurs. Taken together, the three venues constitute the whole of what we hope to see in our churches through their expressions of love, hope and faith.
The three venues are interconnected, with each being an integral part of the whole that makes up a healthy congregation. Rather than functioning independently, the three venues work together in unity, being integrated into a congregation’s overall participation with Jesus in his disciple-making ministry in fulfillment of the Father’s mission to the world.
The imagery of love, hope and faith speaks loudly to the nature of the Christian journey, including the way a healthy local body engages its community with acts of love, as it creates an inclusive celebratory Sunday environment that inspires and brings hope, and as it creates an environment for discipleship where participants grow in faith. The word venue thus speaks to the whole of what we do, where we do it, and who we do it with (thus reminding us of why we are a church).
The love venue
Love is the foundation of everything we do. When we consider faith, hope and love, love is the greatest. The love venue is about our witness. It includes our outreach and other forms of missional work. It helps us identify our target community and build relationships through missional activities and events. The venue for sharing this love starts outside the walls of the church and continues inside.
The hope venue
As we build relationships and become known within our target community, we want to offer hope to our new-found friends. The hope venue is about our worship. Because our hope is in Christ, our worship services are centered on him. In healthy churches, worship services don’t just happen, they result from intentional, thoughtful preparation. In the hope venue the focus is on inclusive gathering and includes being intentional about making guests feel welcome and appreciated. Within the hope venue we offer inspirational worship services that focus on proclaiming Christ and his gospel in word (scripture reading and preaching) and sacrament (the Lord’s Supper and baptism). The focus of this proclamation is on inspiration that leads to transformation more than on mere information. The scope of the hope venue primarily involves what goes on within the church walls.
The faith venue
New and existing members need to be discipled. The faith venue is about our discipleship—it is where teaching takes place through new member classes, Bible studies, youth and family ministry gatherings, small groups, and various missional activities. All these involve building within people the faith of Christ. The activities and programs within the faith venue occur at church, in members’ homes, and at other discipleship locations.
All three ministry venues are vital for healthy church. For an infographic that provides a detailed summary concerning the three venues, click here. We will explore the details beginning with the April Equipper.