These three remind us Jesus is the center of the center.
During my years in ministry, both as a pastor and a denominational leader, I’ve been exposed to a number of discipleship pathway slogans used to motivate and inspire us to healthy church. These include: Believe, Belong, Become; Inward, Outward, Upward; Cultivate, Plant, Reap; Win, Build, Equip. I am likely missing a couple. All of these pathways work in some cultures and ministry environments, while not working in other cultures and environments. Some come across as works-oriented; others as more faith based. We chose Faith, Hope and Love Avenues because they are scriptural and because they work in all cultures. Allow me to share some other reasons how Faith, Hope and Love lead us toward healthy church.
They are God-focused
Our faith is the faith(fulness) of Jesus, not faith in what we do or say. He is the author, perfecter and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). We are to fix our eyes on him, the author of Hebrews tells us. Paul reminds us to live by faith in the Son of God, “who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). To have faith in Jesus is to trust him, to believe what he says and that he will do what he says he will do. He is the one who said he would build his church. So we look to him and how we participate in what he is doing. Our faith avenue centers on Jesus.
Jesus is our hope. He is the one who will complete the work he started in us. He is the hope by which we are saved. He is our hope for forgiveness, redemption, justification, sanctification and eternal life. He is the reason and focus of our worship. He is the reason we come to church as part of his body. Our hope avenue centers on Jesus.
Jesus is love. The new commandment he gave us is to love as he loves us. This love for one another is what distinguishes us as disciples of Jesus—participants of the great commission of sharing this love with others and making disciples. We love others because we see them as God’s beloved children—many of whom do not know they have an Abba/Father who loves them and wants to be in relationship with them. We welcome people in our worship services in the hope they grow in that relationship with Christ and we celebrate as he changes their hearts and lives. Our love avenue is centered on Jesus.
They are interconnected
Paul said, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). While Paul made a clear distinction showing love is the greatest, he did not imply faith, hope and love are not interconnected. We cannot have faith without hope, hope without love, love without faith. How can we have faith in Jesus if he is not our hope? How can we hope in him if we don’t trust in his love for us? How can we love him if we don’t trust him and have faith in him? Faith, hope and love work together in our individual lives and in the life of the church.
The three avenues of GCI congregation work together toward healthy church. Because we strive to love others as Jesus loves us, we begin to see others differently. As Paul said to the church in Corinth:
For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. (2 Corinthians 5:14-16 NRSV)
Christ’s love urges us to share our faith, our hope and our love with others. Love for others motivates us to engage our church neighborhood (Love avenue), realizing they are God’s beloved and need to be in relationship with him. We invite others to join us in worship (Hope avenue) where they are welcomed and made to feel at home in a safe environment where they freely participate in worship. We provide discipleship pathways (Faith avenue) where they can grow in faith and knowledge and where they can grow deeper in relationship with a small group of others.
They connect us internationally
As I mentioned in the beginning, some of our discipleship pathway slogans don’t work internationally. Because language is important—especially as we strive to be more culturally aware—we use Faith, Hope, and Love because they are biblically based and universally understood words we can use to describe how we approach healthy church. What a blessing it is to have GCI congregations all over the world using the same language and working toward the same goal of healthy church.
Faith, hope and love are not just words that make up a nice slogan—they point to Jesus as the center of the center, they are the foundation of everything we do, and they connect us as Grace Communion International.
As we participate with Jesus and focus on faith, hope and love, we will more clearly see what it means to be a healthy church.
Focusing on the center of the center,