One of the hazards of young love is the notion that love, in and of itself, is enough to hold two people together for a lifetime (if that annoying song by The Captain and Tennille is ringing through your skull at this point, I apologize). The fact is that love, in and of itself, does not have the power to do that. As Larry Norman poigniantly observed: "The Beatles said all you need is love and then they broke up..."
What is true of romantic love (and The Beatles) is also true concerning the powerful feelings of Christian love shared between people in the life of the church. The recipe for the goop that cements lives together long term must include love, of course. But along with "sincere love" (Romans 12: 9; I Peter 1:22) the recipe must also include healthy portions of deeply shared values, commonly held beliefs and a mutual sense of mission. Without these things, love alone will lose its luster and the bonds between people will weaken and even break down altogether.
These things are on my mind a lot as I lead in the launch of a demanding and radical new ministry endeavor called the Vineyard Community Mission Network. Our core group mostly consists of people who have come to deeply love each other (and me) as a result of our lives together at the Crown Valley Vineyard. As much as I appreciate the power of these bonds and respect the trust these folks have shown in me as a leader, I am also aware that love will not be enough to harness us to our mission. Love alone is not capable of energizing us to mutually accept its demands or fulfill its potential. For this to happen, our people have to buy into a different philosophy of ministry, a new set of beliefs and values and a distinct new routine (way of life) if they are going to make it through the crucible of change together.
For this reason, I have strived to not only communicate a new vision, but to also educate people about the values, facts, philosophy and scriptural keys that inform this vision. Now that a month has passed between the loss of our former point of church identity and the implementation of our new mission, I can feel the transitional strain testing some of our people. As I note this, I am convinced that those who take the time and trouble to thoroughly investigate the new paradigm I have been promoting and buy into it will likely be with us months or years from now. Those who don't won't. It's that simple.
The good news is that these are decisions that will be made in spite of our enduring love for each other and not only because of it. That's because love is not, in and of itself, a commitment. It can only lead us to the point of making commitments (or choosing not to). Togetherness, mutuality and long term commeraderie are based on things that go beyond "mere" love.
Those who have already opted out of our new endeavor, or who will do so in the future, will most likely still love me a great deal. And, of course, I will still love them, too. Love, after all, always perseveres (I Corinthians 13:7). But if we are going to embrace the changes, the sacrifices and the exciting possibilities of our new endeavor, we will need a lot more than love.