Bill Hybels has said, and I agree, that “The local church is the hope of the world.” In times of tragedy, it is often the local churches that come to the aid of those in need. For many, attending a weekend service is the only exposure they ever get to the teachings of Jesus and the love of God. Stories abound of people who, having reached the end of their rope, stumbled into a church service just to check out the “God thing”. Beyond all of this, the local church should be the launching point – and the refueling station – for believers to go about the great commission of taking the good news of Jesus throughout the world.
Yet something has gone terribly wrong along the way. I recently received the annual report from my own church and was shocked by what I saw. Of every dollar given to the church, only nine cents is being used to take the gospel out into the world. Perplexed, I began acquiring financial reports for other churches. Some fared better than others, but in my cursory investigation, I did not find a single church that devoted more than 15% of their receipts for sending the good news beyond their walls.
In the West, we have become very program-centric in our churches. We have fun and exciting events happening every week, sometimes every day, to cater to our members. I understand the need for fellowship with like-minded believers, but something seems horrifically out of balance. While millions of dollars are spent entertaining the “insiders”, almost nothing is being given to feed, clothe, and care for those outside the walls of our buildings. How can we justify such inequality and still consider ourselves to be followers of Jesus? This is not the plan He laid out for us.
In James 1:27, we learn true religion is to look after orphans and widows. In Matthew 25:31-46 we learn what we should be doing in our daily lives: feeding the hungry, providing clean water to those who thirst, caring for the sick, sheltering the homeless, clothing the poor, and visiting those who are in prison. Isaiah 58 notifies us we should be freeing slaves, fighting for the oppressed, and breaking the chains of injustice. To sum all of that up simply, we are to be giving hope to a dark and desperate world. Instead we huddle tightly together, consumed with entertainment, safety, and familiarity.
If the local church is to regain its relevance and once again become the hope of the world, we must return to doing the things Jesus told us to do. Indeed, outside of that mission, there is no reason for the church to even exist. We are the hands and feet of Jesus. If we do not carry out the mission of Christ, who will? We are the ones who must go. We are the ones who must fight. We are all the local church, and it is our duty to shine the hope of Jesus brightly into our world.