Lovey-Dovey Stuff: A True Story

Obviously he was not happy with my eloquent and exuberant ramblings about love.
Finally, I trailed off to a mumble and paused for his response.
What I heard next was so surreal to me that it is forever fixed in my conscience
and had such an impact on me that it completely changed the direction of my life.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The following is a true story. I remember the quotes below word for word, because it was burned so deeply into my conscience. The year was 1996 and my first official job in ministry after college lasted only twelve weeks, coming to a difficult and sudden halt. But this event would completely change the course of my life. What a journey!

I thought I was ready for anything. Youth internships at 3 churches, each with over a thousand members, and countless youth activities, was my ticket into the wonderful world of professional ministry. Experience was equally balanced by education: a double bachelors degree in Bible and Family Studies was the very best David Lipscomb University could offer a young, ambitious up and comer. Unfortunately, no amount of Biblical studies or life experience could have prepared me for that one fateful day when my whole world came to a screeching halt.

As one of the more fortunate graduates I actually had a full-time job lined up with great pay, as well as a down payment on a house before I even graduated. I started working part-time in January of 1996, for a wealthy church of just over 600 members and a youth group of about 80. With college graduation coming up in May, I would graduate and become full-time with the church, leading them into a summer packed with great activities. They were excited; I was excited. This seemed like the perfect fit and perfect start to my career. Little did I know the whole thing was actually a divinely appointed lesson in the classroom of harsh reality. Here’s what happened.

One day, after I’d only been there a couple of weeks, the elder in charge of education called me to a meeting in the very nice church library. He sat down right in front of me. To give you an idea of the presence of this man, he was an executive in a large corporation and he carried with him to this meeting his own personalized preprinted stationary, on which was written his name at the top and “Committed to Excellence” at the bottom. He placed these on the table in order for me to take notes. His wife came too, sitting behind him and slightly to the side where I could see her. Both were dressed in their Sunday best. I had on a t-shirt. What was said my surprise you. It certainly did me. It started out fine but quickly led to an out of body experience.  

“David, we have done some research here at Someplace Church,” he began (I changed the name to protect the innocent), “and we have found the kids do not have the five steps to salvation completely memorized.” I had actually just studied this topic in a church history class earlier in the year, so I was ready. “Oh, you mean hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized,” I quickly responded. “Yes! I’m glad you know them,” he said. “Yes, sir, I sure do!” I added. I was familiar enough with this trademark doctrine of this denomination to know he might ask me about it. Since I had his attention I began to unfold my pre-meditated answer with great enthusiasm. “Sir, I want to teach the kids these very important five steps and I have an idea of how we can really make them stick.” “Great. Go on,” he replied. “Well, I suggest we teach that which really motivates a person to learn the five steps.  And that is… the love of God.” I smiled. They did not. “Yep, the love of God!” I continued with zeal, unwavered by facial expressions. “The awesome love of God is the real motivation for everything we do in this life. We would not even know what love is if he hadn’t shown us.”And I was prepared to go on and on…


I thought I was just getting started but as I went on and on about love as the motivation for everything I began to notice his countenance was changing. His eyes glazed over and he sat back in his chair. I glanced over and his wife was frowning too. Then they both looked at the floor. I trailed off to a mumble and paused for his response. All fell quiet, like a room full of grieving family members waiting on a funeral to start. Obviously he was not happy with my eloquent and exuberant ramblings about love. What I heard next is so surreal to me that it is forever fixed in my conscience and had such an impact on me that it completely changed the direction of my life.

What he said was just exactly this: “David, we want what’s best for you here at Someplace Church. But I must warn you. If you come in here and start talking that lovey-dovey stuff people are going to get worried about you.”

Cue crickets chirping.

There was a split second where I though he might be joking. But his face would not let me off the hook. Time stood still. I didn’t say anything else other than, “I’ll have to think about this and get back to you.” The next day I packed up my office and wrote letters to put in the boxes of each of the Elders, and the Preaching Minister and the Associate Minister. My letters were not nice. The gist of my letter was this — the system you are in and the way you conduct yourselves reminds me a lot of the Pharisees. And I left.

To this day it is still in the top ten most painful experiences of my life. However, by God’s grace I took the pain of that experience and turned it into personal vision. I figured if there was a church that was so decidedly this far from God’s love then there must be the opposite, or the possibility of it, where love trumped doctrine and maintaining the unity of the Spirit was a primary value. From that day forward I promised God I would make the lovey-dovey stuff top priority. As I looked back through the Bible I was reminded God makes the lovey-dovey stuff His top priority as well.

Am I too harsh, to call them Pharisees? I think scripture supports my statement. I think the heart and spirit of the Pharisees lives on today. It’s hard to imagine a place that still calls itself Christian but where talking about love is not welcome. Yet it does exist. I was young and naïve, for sure. God let me see there really are churches where love is discouraged. In fact, at that moment, God opened my eyes to a greater truth, there are thousands upon thousands of churches where love is diminished, or second place, or nearly gone. This is nothing new. There has always been this war against God’s
love. It is the greatest of all wars upon the church and upon our own hearts.

Where God’s love is taught and loving one another encouraged, there is a battle. Love is warred against by religion and by the flesh, producing an impartial love or a love without felt sacrifice. By felt sacrifice I mean the sort of love commitment to one another which actually requires us to give something up — our own time, energy, and even our life. The love of Christ in the earth is just such a sacrifice, the ultimate one in fact. So where is the same depth of love in so many churches? Is it gone? Or is it eclipsed by independent American idealism, that back-bone of western industrialization, and the cowboy nature of man? Even in churches which do promote lovey-dovey stuff much of the time that love is far from that of Christ’s unconditional and self-sacrificial, cross-shaped love. Where the love of Christ is promoted there is always so much further for each of us to go, to really plunge ourselves into the full depth and breadth of that love. We must beg God each day to show us this love.

Want to hear something really crazy? One of the youth ministers who came shortly after me at the same church was Matthew Winkler, the husband of Mary Winkler. Not kidding. A few years later, while serving as a youth minister at another church in TN, he was shot in the back and killed by his wife.

What is the opposite of lovey-dovey stuff? What fills in its absence?  Cruelty, prejudice, hatred, discord, gossip, jealousy, murder, you name it. You can’t do away with love. God is love!

God is love!
God is love!
God is love!
God is love!
God is love!
God is love!

I made a solemn vow to God on that day and every day since — I’m going to proclaim His lovey-dovey stuff from the mountain tops and the valleys and every place in between. God let me experience that for a reason: motivation. Well, it worked. I forget love just as much as the next person, but God’s Spirit is a faithful friend and an ever present Counselor. Just ask God what to do in any conflict, circumstance, disagreement, challenge, task, or job and I’ll bet – if we’ll really listen carefully — we’ll hear the same thing which has been echoing throughout all of human history: “Choose the lovey-dovey stuff. Pour it on thick and spread it out to all. It’s the answer to every question and it begins with the very Son of the Most High God!”

For God so loved the world that He gave… lovey-dovey stuff. 

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Categories: God's Love, My Journey

Author:David Parkerson

As founder of HomeLife Academy and Families in Christ Ministries I'm a very blessed man. I can honestly say I've seen God do amazing things. Why? Because he loves you and your family and wants the very best for you. This is why we can trust the Lord with all our hearts!

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