The Underestimated Church

church-jelsa1As church planters Catherine and I have a vision to do several things beyond the planting of one congregation itself.  There’s three things that are on our hearts.  They are planting further churches, university ministry and missions in Moldova, specifically to the needs in that country related to orphans and young people at risk of being victims of the sex trafficking industry.

When we talk about the last one of those a lot of people get interested very quickly.  That’s great.  It is indeed a bold and remarkable ministry to get involved in.  Catherine blogged a bit about it here.

However I find that people tend to be a bit ho-hum about the thing that will start it all – planting a church.  After all, there’s lots of churches around.  It’s not as though no one has ever thought of that before!

I am immensely excited about starting the church.  I think that people underestimate the local church.  What we have seen in the last 30 years is a complete transformation in what the local church can accomplish.

It used to be that in the West if you had vision and you wanted to do something great for the cause of Christ then what you would do is start a missions organisation.  So in 1960 Loren Cunningham started Youth With A Mission, and a mountain of missions work has been done through this organisation since.  In 1951 Bill Bright founded Campus Crusade for Christ in an attempt to make an impact in colleges and universities.  Bright and Cunningham would certainly be two of the most significant Christian leaders in the West in the second half of the 20th century.  Back in that era the local church is where you went to pastor.  If you wanted to lead you went elsewhere.

The other way to have influence used to be through academia.  The likes of JI Packer and Don Carson sold huge quantities of books and were widely read by both church leaders and by lay people.

If you fast forward to today the most influential Christian leaders in the West are all pastors of local churches.  They are Bill Hybels, Rick Warren and Brian Houston, Bill Johnson and the like.  Those four leaders have had enormous influence by their conferences, writings, travelling and speaking.  They have set the agenda for the Western church.

In my lifetime there has been a re-rating of the importance of the local church.  The local church has overtaken missions organisations and denominational headquarters as the main tool that God is using to grow his kingdom and impact the world.  Let me be crystal clear – this is a brilliant development.  I praise God for all the wonderful work that missions organisations have done.  However the local church is far better suited to making a long term impact for the gospel.  Local churches have the mandate to be salt and light in their community as well as doing what they can to get the gospel to the ends of the earth.

So if there’s a problem that you want to solve – start a church.  If there is a need – the local church is the answer.  If you have a vision for doing something mind-blowingly huge for God then the local church is the place to work that vision out.  Do not underestimate what can be done through the local church!

John

One Comment to “The Underestimated Church”

  1. After all, the Body of Christ must surely be incredible! Only when the Body moves to a different Lord do problems come. Live the First Commandment, and then, “Look out devil, here we come and you are beaten already (even if you get in a few blows!)”
    Peace

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