Why the Church Loves so Badly

Once, I did something badly until I achieved success.

In my early forties, after several years of intense training, I earned my first-degree black belt. I was last in my class from start to finish.

It never stopped being a surprise to everyone, including me, that I’d managed this feat. I was driven, at the time, by my love for the martial artists in my Bible Study and by all God was teaching me through the experience of working at something for which I was clearly ill-suited.

Before that time, I’d only invested time in things at which I excelled. I was a good student. A talented musician. A promising writer.

Clumsy with my feet, I never attempted athletic pursuits. Clumsy with my hands, I abandoned sewing and crafts after my first failures.

Initially, I thought God drafted me into karate for the sake of the women in my small group – so I could know them better and minister well. After I time, I came to see the value of pursuing a goal that seemed impossible and where I trailed my classmates from day one to graduation.

Besides the honing of my humility, God showed me that He does, indeed, call His people to do some things badly.

He commands us out of our comfortable chairs and into pursuits that don’t present us in the best light, that remind us we have much to learn, require us to depend on others, and drive us to cry out to Him for strength and persistence when ours has drained from us.

There has never been a time when this was more needed in the church than now. As the battle for souls intensifies, God is calling all hands on deck.

There are countless souls wandering the earth in darkness, blindly groping for the truth, wondering if they’ll ever find their way and feeling unloved by God, angry, hopeless, and alone. There are more people than your pastor can reach, or Beth Moore, Billy Graham, Kevin Sorbo, even KLove.

God never intended the furthering of His kingdom to be something accomplished solely by gifted professionals and applauded by amateurs who encourage from their pews. Building God’s kingdom is, in fact, a calling for oafs.

It’s a task uniquely suited for the weak, meek, stumbling, fumbling, falling, appalling, imperfect, unfinished, inept lot of us that Christ called to Himself and adopted into the family of the Most High God.

God designed this work for us outlaws who have already pled guilty, received our sentence and our pardon, and now live free – with nothing to prove and nothing to lose, so we may as well boldly, badly love those who Jesus loves in His name.

If this is how you feel about Christian ministry, about loving people different from you, or about pursuing God – brother and sister, you’ve been called to serve.

It’s been ten years since I actively practiced martial arts. I still have some moves, but it’s fair to say my karate stories are squarely in the rearview mirror.

Even meek, weak oafs for Jesus should always have new stories. It’s fine to illustrate a point with a decades old tale, but there should be more updated ones to add if we’re truly pressing into God.

God drove this home when a group of quilting ladies asked me if I had any crafting skills. The only tool they used with which I have any skill is the seam ripper. I shook my head and waved them off. No, no, these hands fly across the keyboard, but they’re bunglers with needle and thread.

Silently, I inventoried my current activities. Have I slipped back into that comfy space of only taking on what I know I can do in my own strength?

Am I only loving people I find easy to love? Am I only communicating with people I understand or who understand me? Am I only having conversations with those who agree with my perspective? Am I editing conversations, so I never enter tricky territory?

Do I function as if I believe God only ministers through me when I look strong, competent, intelligent, and secure? Am I passing on invitations from God to offer people a love that fumbles around searching for the open door because I don’t want people to think I’m inept or lacking (in other words, the truth?)?

It’s football season and it’s a well-established fact that the most winning NFL team is not always the one with the most talent. 

Winning teams function as a team. They’re staffed with players devoted to the game and to their teammates, not themselves.

They commit to leaving it all on the field and playing the entire game. Even when they lose players to injuries. Even when they fumble play after play. Even when they’re down and no one else thinks they can win. They persist. They play. They invest heart, soul, and kneecap.

This is God’s calling to us, His imperfect church.

Leave everything on the field. Pursue Him and the call to love others with every fiber of our souls.

Don’t worry about fumbles. Get up from the hard tackles and move on.

Don’t focus on the score board. Ignore the jeers from the other team. Even if you play badly, stay on the field. Do your job.

If at first you play badly, this can be overcome with hard work, diligent practice, proper coaching, and reliance on your team. And remember the game’s not over until the final call.

Karate, quilting, kicking the football, or kingdom building – pursuits that aren’t for the most talented, but for those willing to look bad and invest effort long enough to find the goal.

Why does the church love so badly? Because we’re attempting the impossible in a world where most love grows cold. Because we’re trying to love the way God loves. Because we have an enemy placing obstacles in our path at every turn. The amazing thing isn’t how badly we love – it’s that we keep trying.

Let’s get out there tomorrow (and the day after) and love others badly, serve others poorly, and worship like oafs until, by God’s grace, we fumble our way to being His light in a dark world.

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    The Conversation

  1. Paul Taylor says:

    AMEN X 10

  2. Homemade in CA says:

    Struggling with how to respond to my daughter & SIL’s “deconstruction of faith”, a current trend of ‘enlightenment’ that many Christian millennials are experiencing. I am greatly buoyed by this post, Lori, so THANK YOU! I desperately needed this inspired dose of joy and renewed purpose to pursue Him and to love others with every fiber of my soul! God richly bless you and yours this Thanksgiving!

  3. Tammy J Breeding says:

    I am just beginning to read your blogs, and I find them to fit right into the niche of where I live and what I need to embrace to move forward. Thank You!

  4. Rob McCullough says:

    Yea Lori! Thank you for sharing your heart and Heavenly Fathers Heart. Blessings and Life and Peace!

  5. Elizabeth says:

    For the life of me I have no idea what this article is about or what it’s trying to say.

  6. Jann Butts says:

    It’s amazing to me how every blog you write seems to be pointing at me. You say what I’m thinking. You describe my feelings.
    Thank you for your incredible words of wisdom, even when you may not think they are. If they touch my heart I know they touch other people’s hearts.
    May our Heavenly Father continue to speak to you so you can pass along His whispers.
    I pray God’s highest blessings upon you because I know the rest of us will also benefit. You are a cherished treasure!

  7. Oh my goodness, I needed to read this! I’m like you, and I don’t like to do things at which I don’t excel. Good to remember that stumbling into spiritual conversations, that loving (even awkwardly), and that engaging our culture are worth doing–worth pursuing–even when we fall on our faces.
    Thank you for writing it.