Chapter three of the book, “Hurdling Barriers,” focuses on the barrier of a lost love for God. It is a barrier to which no church will admit, but it is not uncommon. Moreover, many churches may have this barrier without even knowing it. What follows is a brief introduction to the chapter.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” (Matthew 22:37–38, ESV)
Based upon census data, in 2017 for every 6.9 couples who joined in marriage, another 2.9 couples divorced. Even with this rate of divorce trending down from previous years, the rate is still very sad. As a church pastor, I have conducted many pre-marriage counselling sessions and officiated many weddings. Unfortunately, while the success rates of these marriages seem to have beat the national average, there were still some who divorced, even in the church.
What astounded me in those cases of divorce was that in the beginning, the couples seemingly had a great love for one another. They made vows to love one another until death. So, what happened? Somehow, they had lost the love they seem to have had at first. Similarly, it is possible for churches to lose their first love.
Consider the church at Ephesus as reported in the book of Revelation. This was a church that in many ways, looked like a stellar example of what church should be. They labored in good works, they endured hardships patiently, did not put up with sin in the church and insisted on pure doctrine. However, the Lord said about this church, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” (Revelation 2:4, ESV) There was something vital missing in this church that seemed to do everything right. It was an issue of the heart. They lost their first love. The Lord exhorts them to repent and do the things they did at first or He would remove their lampstand from its place. They would lose the true light, the manifest presence of Christ in their midst and slowly fall and cease to exist.
Jesus gives us the “Great Commandment,” to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” . . . Without the “Great Commandment,” there can be no “Great Commission.” . . . Like the church of Ephesus mentioned in Revelation, many churches may be doing all the right things while still missing this most vital command. Thus, they may be unhealthy and not even know it. This is an issue with the heart of believers and the heart of the church.
Chapter three, looks at the symptoms that will indicate this barrier to church health exists in a congregation, and what steps a church might take to hurdle it.