Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places


Written by Larry Doornbos /
October 2, 2023

What do you love? What does your congregation love? These are essential questions to dig into because St. Augustine states, “Wherever I am carried, my love is carrying me.” Putting it another way, our congregations do what they love to do.

Suppose you are working on getting your congregation to do something new or follow a different path. You first need to know what they love. If they don’t love where you are trying to take them, you will need to change what they love (a hard, but not impossible, task, I used to hate coffee, now I start every morning with dark roast), or your efforts will likely fail. Wherever you go, your love is carrying you. This can be a good thing if you have the right loves.

Augustine, however, also speaks of disordered loves. Disordered loves are loves that are out of order. Loves that should be lower on our list but get put to the top of our list. Or worse, loves that should not even be on your list get put to the top.

My sense is all congregations have disordered loves. Those disordered loves can hinder or even block writing the next chapter of God’s story of ministry and witness for our congregation. Disordered loves carry us where we should not be going.

To pursue God’s call, we must boldly identify our disordered loves. Once brought into the light, we can begin to put those loves into the right place or, at times, remove them altogether.

What disordered loves might your congregation be dealing with? Here are nine broad categories:

  • Prestige: A desire to look good to other churches at the expense of ministry and witness
  • Power: A desire to gain and hold on to control rather than pursue ministry and witness
  • Safety: An inordinate concern to keep everyone safe at the expense of ministry and witness
  • Survival: A focus on keeping the church from closing rather than focusing on ministry and witness
  • Comfort: An emphasis on keeping the congregation comfortable rather than concentrating on witness
  • Institutionalism: Protecting the institution at the price of people
  • Assimilation: Being absorbed into the ways of the culture rather than being a kingdom people
  • Closed Eyes: Ignoring the injustice in our world because we refuse to see it or think it doesn’t impact us
  • Holding on to History: We are so caught up in what we used to be we refuse to imagine a new way forward.

What are the disordered loves your congregation faces? How are they keeping you from God’s story of ministry and witness?

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