The local church is the hope of the world
Spirit-filled, outward-looking churches are what can bring change to this nation, argues Director of Ministry Stuart Blount.
“There’s nothing like the local church when the local church is working right – it’s the hope of the world,” says Bill Hybels. The Church is facing pretty constant criticism here in the UK. But I really do agree with Bill Hybels that the local church is the hope of the world. I also agree with him that it can really depend on whether the church is working right.
When it’s going well it is amazing. When people are coming to faith in Christ, and hurting people are finding deep healing, and young people are alive with excitement in following Jesus, and the beauty and power of true community is being expressed across the generations and the cultural diversities – it truly is a sight to behold.
However, when it’s not going well it is heartbreaking. When so-called mature Christian people are bickering over unimportant matters, and unchurched guests feel completely unwelcome, and selfishness prevails over generosity and the young are suppressed for the benefit of maintaining the status quo, it is a distressing image.
My own conviction forged through my years of pastoral leadership has been that the Church is God’s plan A for changing the world – and he doesn’t have a plan B. If this is true, then we really must give pay attention to the kind of churches we are growing.
Of course, there are those who would immediately say that we do not build the Church, Jesus does. And I wouldn’t argue that this is certainly what Jesus intended all along. But unfortunately, we often end up being the ones who argue with the Divine Architect over his design and specifications, in preference for our own comforts and preferred fixtures and fittings.
As a Movement, we are defined by our churches. There are Elim church all across the UK, and the world, that are resident in all kinds of local communities. But what are we about?
Our General Superintendent Chris Cartwright said recently at one of our Vision2020 conferences, “Our mission is to bring the love of God and the gospel of Jesus in the power of the Spirit to every person in every place, relentlessly for the rest of our days.” And I, for one, am delighted to give myself for that cause.
Within that short statement are the core values of what we have always been as a Movement. A people relentlessly committed to the great commission of Christ – our founders laid those foundations for us and we are charged with carrying that forward – to grow churches with the aim of winning men and women for Christ and believing for the radical transformation of countless lives across our nation and the world.
The heroic English Bible translator William Tyndale said: “The Church is the one institution that exists for those outside it.” Therefore, if we are to continue to make a meaningful impact upon the landscape of our nation we must be ‘relentless’ in our commitment to evangelism, mission and church planting. But also, we have always known that we were birthed from an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on many churches and people at the dawn of the 20th century.
We cannot fulfil the mission of Jesus without a constant thirst for the Spirit and an obedience to his leading and will. There are many messages that church leaders hear today about what their church should or should not look like. What models they should look for and what priorities they should establish. But in my humble experience, nothing enduring is ever achieved without a people who are hungry for God and willing to be shaped by his Spirit.
As a Pentecostal movement, we must not surrender our conviction that it is the Spirit who must guide and empower all we do.
Our churches need to be beacons of hope in our towns and cities, and the place that people find acceptance and meaning for their lives. So many of our churches can share amazing stories of people who have been radically transformed by encountering a church that cared and showed them the love and power of Christ.
The response to the criticism we face in our culture today is not to hide away but to shine more brightly. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden… let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
When churches spend their time looking inwardly at what would make their services more pleasing to those already part of the church, they fail to see the good news opportunities on their doorstep. We have got to get real and be honest with ourselves about what we need to do to build the kind of churches that God can use to touch our communities with his love.
We need to be courageous leaders and courageous people who forego the pursuit of our own comforts for the sake of the lost, the hurting, the needy and the broken – these are the people Jesus came into our world for.
This relentless pursuit is what will make the difference. This relentless pursuit is what will give hope to our world.
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