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Where’s the love? - by Abby Shaffer

Let’s talk about LOVE, shall we?  That seems to be the overarching theme this month.  God is love.  God has demonstrated to us what love is supposed to look like through His Son, and through countless acts of blessing.  Our Father desires for us to live in love; to lavish His love on others, both within the church and beyond its borders.

We recently officially “closed” the Pittsburgh COB.  They dwindled and disbanded and it was made official at District Conference this past October.  It is what it is.  But I weep, and wonder how a church goes defunct in a neighborhood with 7,000-8,000 people.  The greater Pittsburgh Metro area has about 2.4 million people across 7 counties.  Quite a few other churches in our district fall into that demographic.  Yet many are struggling.  Where’s the love?
We have churches in college towns that have no college ministries.  No outreach to college students, who are arguably the most questioning and open group of people when it comes to faith.  Yet we do so little.  Where’s the love?

We have churches who have given up viable ministries because they don’t want a ministry anymore.  It’s not in the budget anymore.  Really??  People are coming into your midst who haven’t graced a church door in years, if ever, and you’re going to cancel the ministry that draws them?  Where’s the love?

We have pastors who do not visit parishioners.  Are-you-even-serious?  Yes.  There are some pastors who don’t do hospital or nursing home visits.  Pastors who are more concerned with the academic and theological pursuits of the job than with the honest needs of the flock.  Outrageous.  Where’s the love?

And deacons – I’ve heard of deacons who think their only sacred purpose is to fill foot basins twice a year and set out a love feast.  Anyone can do that!  Deacons are to be a set-apart group of caring individuals who visit the sick and dying; who minister through providing food and meeting physical needs, as well as spiritual ones.  A deacon is to be a minister who prays, serves, labors, endures, speaks holy truth, supports and upholds the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Yet, so many find time only to fill a few buckets.  Where’s the love?

We have Sunday School teachers who neglect the Word of God and teach their own opinions instead.  So we have kids growing up in the church who don’t know the Truth.  Where’s the love?
Speaking of kids and youth – they’re not stickin’ around.  I commend the churches who have taken a stand in faith and have said “we will change whatever’s necessary to get kids into our midst.”  They have thriving ministries.  But too many have counted the cost of ministering to the needs of young families and have decided it’s too “expensive.”  So now the ‘newly marrieds’ class is in their 60’s and we start to wonder who will keep the church going.  Where’s the love?

I hear about board chairs who don’t come to worship on Sundays.  I hear about musicians who are completely possessive about church instruments.  I hear that there are still some who refuse to support Camp based on things that happened years ago.  I hear griping and back-biting from one corner of this district to the other.  Where’s the love?
Maybe I’m stepping on your toes.  Rest assured, I tromped on my own first.  I just type what God gives me, in love.
Want to know my Valentine’s wish?  It’s my all-year plea.  It’s for biblical Christianity to once again take root in the Church of the Brethren.  It’s for love and peace to grow here, with us.  It’s for God’s will to be done in HIS church, without bickering, jealousy, power-grabbing or malice.  My prayer is for apathy to be an unfamiliar concept.  I want to see men and women and children stand and live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Why?  Because it’s the only thing that truly matters.  It’s how we know what true ‘agape’ is.  It’s why we can experience hope, joy, peace … love.
From Romans 12:  “Love must be sincere.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves.” 
Y  Abby 
Abby Shaffer 
WPA District Children & Youth Ministries Coord.