He encouraged his congregation to set their eyes on Jesus, not on their worries. “Are you looking at the problem, or are you looking at him?” he asked. But just because he was trying to point people to Jesus did not mean that everyone was receptive to his message. Some took what he was saying as encouraging people to be passive and not do anything. Others had such a clear idea of what they thought needed to happen that they were not open to Love’s exhortation.
The pastor said it felt like everyone’s eyes were everywhere except for Jesus—whether that was their news feeds, their social media posts, or the COVID numbers. Yet his aim was not to tell people to ignore the pandemic or any of the injustices or political controversies that were happening. Rather, his purpose was to help them approach those challenges through the lens of Jesus.
“[Jesus] doesn’t make things go away, but he is what keeps us sober and level-headed,” said Love. Jesus gives us peace and confidence as we face life’s difficulties. “It always needs to come back to the same fundamental things, you know?”
As far as how Love tackles significant social events from the pulpit, the pastor said he does not make it a habit to address in detail what people should think about specific political parties or social movements. He did, however, spend some time trying to educate people, particularly white church members who did not understand the rage they were seeing about race last year. But Love also spent some time addressing and correcting some of the responses he was seeing from Black people in his church.
Being the pastor of a church that has significant numbers of Black and white members is a “gift,” said Love, because it requires him to express himself with greater care than if he were the pastor of a predominantly Black or predominantly white church.
“If I was in an all-Black church, there would be certain assumptions I could make,” he said. “There would be certain phrases and ways I could talk and not have to explain myself…and the same with white people. White pastors in an all-white church don’t realize how many assumptions that they’re able to run with because everybody has the same racial lens.”
For example, Love said that when most Black people hear the phrase, “Black lives matter,” they simply think of the content of that statement, that the lives of Black people are valuable. But white people, especially if they are conservative, are more likely to associate that phrase with the Black Lives Matter organization.
It’s hard, though, when people have painful past experiences, get triggered, and emotionally react to something someone says. “We’re trying to undo some damage,” said Love.
Alvin Love III: NLC Is Healing
One of the ways NLC has attempted to bring reconciliation among the church body is through the series, “The Former Victims Club.” The idea is that the more you see yourself as a victim, the more easily you will be triggered. “It’s been really, really productive,” said Love. “I’ve been seeing noticeable change.”
Love also decided to bring all of the church’s small groups into one group for a period of time. Because he saw such a need for healing in the church, he thought it wasn’t the best time to delegate discipleship. The members have been learning about conflict resolution, and Love said it has been incredibly fruitful. “People are calling each other, they’re apologizing…People are saying, ‘I made six calls yesterday,’ and someone else, ‘I made five calls just to apologize to other people.’ I’m seeing very tangible change.”
Now that as a church they’re addressing the victim mindset, Love is seeing people calm down. He has noticed that their previous emotional reactions were mainly due to not turning their eyes to Jesus rather than being the result of a specific cultural issue. He said he is “really grateful” for the work God is doing in his church. “I could have a very different story right now.”
Alvin Love III: Excited for What’s Ahead
Despite the challenges of last year, Pastor Alvin Love III said that there were many “amazing moments.” His sister got married, and several other people in the church also celebrated weddings. Couples in the church who had been struggling with infertility were finally able to conceive after years of people praying for them. And NLC has purchased its own building for the first time in the eight years since the church launched. In the midst of the challenges, Love said he has been “seeing our dream come to life.”
The pastor is looking forward to increasing NLC’s community service work and getting back to international missions, efforts that COVID interrupted. “We’ve got a lot ahead of us,” said Love. “I’ve got nothing but hope and excitement for what’s ahead for the church, for Nashville, really.”