Radical Love In Radical Community

Katie Franzen, Executive Pastor of Ministries and Strategic Initiatives | May 10, 2024

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 
John 13:34–35

In a 2020 survey by the Pew Research Center, respondents who think Christianity’s influence is declining were asked to assess whether each of a variety of factors has been a major cause, minor cause, or not a cause of the decline. Shockingly, the results did not show that Christians are associated with how loving we are. Quite the opposite. Almost six in ten people (58%) blame misconduct by ministers, priests, or other Christian leaders as a major cause for Christianity’s decreasing influence. Another 34% of respondents identified it as a minor cause, which means, presumably, about 90% of respondents associate the misconduct of Christian leaders with the decline of Christianity.  

As a church, we have experienced this firsthand. I know a fair number of people who left not just our church—but the church—due to the misconduct of pastors. As people journey on a path of deconstruction, they describe their disillusionment with Christianity using words like hypocrites, imposters, and ‘holier than thou.’ I’ve recognized that those words don’t describe the church as a whole. They’re describing the individuals they’ve experienced, personally or from a distance, who have been so vastly different from the people God calls us to be.  

When I think about the influence of the early church, the reputation was drastically different. Instead of being known for the hypocritical nature of its followers or the judgemental spirit of the church, the world recognized followers of Jesus in the profound ways that they loved one another. The early church in Acts is described as enjoying meeting together, consistently encouraging one another, and loving each other deeply. This love was attractive, and God increased the number of those who were a part of the church daily. 

The same radical love should be true of us today. So, how do we combat the misrepresentations of Christ that exist throughout the church? How do we show others who are far from God that Christ loves them? The answer might surprise you: it is the church. It is not the building but the transformational, radically loving community God designed the church to be. It is in compassionate relationships with one another, in how we show up for people when they are sick or hurting, and in how we cheer each other on and encourage the strengths and gifts we see in others. 

At Willow, this kind of community happens in our groups. We have a wide variety of different groups—ones for you to grow in, like Bible studies, but also for groups for you and your friends who might not be in a relationship with God. We want everyone—no matter where they are in their faith journey—to experience the radical love of God through a radically loving community. 

Next Steps

Join a group to be part of a radically loving community. Go to willowcreek.org/groupfinder and find a community you can connect with today!