Words of Terror: “Dad, I’m in love…”

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Searching for a “get well” card I turn into the gift aisle. Immediately a sea of red and pink cards expressing tender sentiments or stating bold desires overwhelms me. Valentine’s Day is here.

A terrifying thought crosses my mind as I wade through this sea of pre-packaged sentimentality. Someday soon, my newly minted teenage son will come home and say, “Dad, I’m in love with her.”

And my heart will sink.

In Love

I don’t want my son to be ‘in love’ with a girl. I want him to ‘love’ her.

What’s the difference?

When we look at the words closely a gulf opens between them. On the one hand, “I am in love with her” is a statement about the speaker. It describes the one doing the loving. The only verb—the word that carries the action—is “I am” talking about the manner of my existence. “What am I?” is the question. “I am in love” is the answer.

And what does this “in” of “in love” mean? Do we go into love like going into a garden, delighted by its beauty? Do we later leave love when a chill wind blows and the bloom of passion fades?

Perhaps being “in love” is not a place but a time. You can be “in love” just like being in time for an appointment. When the time for love expires we can leave to pursue other delights. If so, it seems that love is “a fog that burns with the first daylight of reality,” as Charles Bukowski says.

And so when my son declares he’s “in love with her,” my heart will sink for fear that love has been reduced to mere emotion, a compulsive infatuation drawing him in, or a revulsion driving him away.

I don’t want my son to be ‘in love’ with a girl. I want him to ‘love’ her. Click To Tweet

To Love

But, on the others hand, I will rejoice when he says to me plainly and boldly: “I love her.” This simple declaration places love at the center. Love stand forth as a strong verb—an action directed outward. To love someone—rather than being “in love” with them—moves into the world. In the words of Iris Murdoch, “Love is the very difficult understanding that something other than yourself is real.”

Love respects, engages, and is committed to the reality of another person. Love connects two or more people in a web of actions and reactions. To love is to act.

This is my hope for my son.

Love is the very difficult understanding that something other than yourself is real. Iris Murdoch Click To Tweet

Love Likewise

Valentine’s Day promotes being “in love,” even if that simple preposition is missing. An active, outward focused love it isn’t captured in most romantic comedies or love songs. So it is little wonder my son will one day blurt out how “in love” he is.

But I hope he will learn—just as I am still learning—of a love that does not bend back on itself as an emotion but moves towards others in action. A love that would lay down one’s life for a friend. A love that would even help a stranger abandoned on the road. A love that Jesus has fully given in his life for us—strangers, even enemies. Of this love he tells us, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).

This Valentine’s Day, let us go and love likewise.

This Valentine's Day, let us go and love likewise. Click To Tweet
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9 responses to “The Two Sins of Multi-Site Video Venue: The Case of Mark Driscoll/Mars Hills and How Should We Respond?

  1. Thanks for this balanced approach to the topic. So much discussion on multi-venue churches either demonize it or praise it as “the” way to do church.
    Every new idea has its pitfalls and benefits. This article gives a great assessment of both.

    1. If this is balanced, I wonder what the deomonizing variety looks like. I don’t disagree with the assessment here, but…the whole thing is framed around two sins endemic to this way of being church. Not exactly aiming to be balanced (which is fine by me).

  2. Thanks for the article,I just think that the whole idea of multi-site church is simply sad.
    Unbelievingly sad. We so much have nothing left, that we accept to see a preacher-star on a screen, and call it “church gathering”…

    We often analyze things retrospectively, but, we could say that the exageration of the centrality of preaching seem to explain that developpment in recent western suburb context. Since the reformation, we have the tendancy to gather not around the presence of Christ, so something should replace it. It becomes “the” good teaching of “that” church (fundamentalist churches), and/or the charismatic personality of the preacher, or the felt presence in the worship style. … So: decreasing the centrality of the real presence leads to exaggerating the importance of the preacher. (Hauerwas says something like that about our liturgy-less gathering and our need for preacher-entertainers, and the non-sustainability of it…)

    That this kind of sad multi-site “gathering” developped in recent North-America evangelicalism is therefore, retrospectively, not really a surprise, even though it’s always surprising what kind of “wal-mart-ization” of the church people are able to tolerate without becoming totally depressed… (… but I suspect we, North American christians, are somewhat cynical, and would need a shock treatment with some chestertonian common sense…)

    The second “sin” you mention lets easily see your anabaptist preferences. From a catholic point of view, hierarchy is not working against mission (catholic are, up to now, the largest christian group in the world, and it was not, contrary to the secularist myths, forced conversions all the way from China to Chile, and from Africa to Ireland).

    Saying — sorry for being a bit harsh here — “platitudes” like “hierarchy may lead to authoritarian abuse, so hierarchy is bad” is like saying “some fathers are jerks, so let’s ban all fathers”.

    You have probably written elsewhere about the crisis of thrust toward authority, explained in part by church abuses. We can have 2 attitudes in that kind of debate: situations like Mars Hill happen, so hierarchy and authority are bad. Or: God build his church, whatever may happen. If a hierarchy can thrust God, and can thrust that Christ is really present in each gathering in each church, then the authority of this hierarchy is counter-balanced by this local reality. In other word, if Christ is believed to be really present in every gathering of every church, the authority over those church need to be very careful how they exercise this authority.

    It comes back again to my first point: around what are we gathering?

  3. Tommy,Helpful. Thank you. I’m on my phone so this response is short. IMO hierarchy only works in consolidation. Structures which organize existing believers. It works for numbers of reasons in Catholic church in this sense. I’ll comment more later. 🙂

  4. I was on staff for a short time at as MSVV. We tried very hard to have it all, to be both missional and multisite. The fact was, we were always an afterthought or even a bothersome inconvenience to the mothership.
    More importantly, “content” was made by and for the (mostly upper-class and white) mothership. We had one venue near a trailer part and another in a 99% hispanic neighborhood.

    Imperialism seems inevitable.

    As I said in my own post on this topic “The kingdom of God is at hand. How can anything be called a church that is not also at hand?”

  5. MSVV stems from a prior problem: that people are attracted to the preaching of a particular person. As that preaching draws more and more people, you either become a megachurch meeting in a stadium or you go MSVV.
    Now, the remedy of course is to build mitosis into the DNA of the church, so that as you grow you grow toward dividing into two rather than just growing in size. That sounds good in theory, but you’re still left with the reality that a lot of people prefer to listen to one preacher over another. Driscoll has mentioned this before, that they tried planting churches but those plants died out as people didn’t want to leave the parent church.

    Now, there may be all manner of ways of building in safeguards against this, but at the end of it all the preacher must be willing to pull the nuclear option on the congregation and be prepared to step down from preaching altogether. They have to be willing to wean the congregation off of them and onto Christ.

  6. I am an ordinary layperson who has been a “preacher’s kid” for over 60 years. I have lived through and experienced many of the “fads” of church leaders—“church growth movement”—“seeker sensitive” movement—MSVV—etc. etc. Let’s keep it basic and authentic. I am weary of “fads” and “marketing” techniques.

  7. […] The Two Sins of Multi Site Video Venue (MSVV) Churches – In the wake of what some consider the key Evangelical news story of 2014: “Multi-Site Video Venue (MSVV) is prone to decontextualization. When one franchises either a teacher or a church model based on one location and transfers it en toto to another location, one has in essence disregarded the local context, its culture and instead assumes that who we are and what we say as a church applies to you with no dialogue or presence needed. It asks people to come to me on our terms. We have what you need. It is a profound act of colonialism.” […]

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