Listen to the South: "God first, neighbor second"
I came across this quote today while reading for one of my seminary classes. I was struck with how it hits the problem of the American church right on the head. Liberal and conservative churches have begun to treat the church like it is consumer driven rather than Gospel and Word driven. When the second greatest commandment of loving your neighbor comes before the first great commandment of loving God with all that you are we have a church that caters to the demands of whatever audience we are trying to reach. God must be the audience in our worship, not the attender of your church service.
The church in the southern hemisphere doesn't struggle with this like we do. They are very much centered around God's Word and live out its principles, sometimes at the risk of their very lives. Many of the cultures in the south are openly hostile to God's Word. Yet, amidst that persecution, the Church is thriving. They aren't centering their churches around attracting people or making them comfortable. Rather, they focus on pleasing God with all that they are and honoring Him, and their churches are still growing. Imagine that; obedience to God's Word bringing about God's spiritual blessing.
I pray that our "church" agenda is rooted in God's agenda, revealed in His Word. As the quote above states, "Before any other consideration, we are called to be faithful to God." I think that reflects what Christ said in Matthew 22, and in the order Christ says it as well:
'But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he said to him, "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. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."' Matt 22:34-40