When I first read Bill Hybels’ famous statement – ‘the local church is the hope of the world’, it made complete sense to me. If every local church functioned in a Biblical way in their communities and with God’s provision, there is no way that the world would remain unchanged. The mere thought of it excites me; the Bride of Christ working collectively to expand the reaches of the Kingdom of God!
But so often, the reality is that we get so focussed on our own ‘local churches’ being the hope of the world that we forget about the importance of other churches and church members and somehow end up competing with each other. It’s a sad, sad, state of affairs. It can often be spotted though, most easily when someone in one church asks someone from another: ‘How is your church doing?’ Unlike deep theological Bible studies, you don’t have to know the original Greek or Hebrew to work out the literal translation of this: ‘How many people are in your church? Are you bigger or smaller than we are?’ When written like this, it can sound ridiculous, but it does happen from time to time, particularly at big Christian events. It also helps you to realise who the really Kindom-minded leaders are, which is why I had such a fantastic time at Ascot Baptist Church last night.
Having been at Kerith Community Church for both morning meetings, it seemed like quite a fun idea to experience God in a different setting; an evening meeting called ‘abc6’ led by my friend Dave Rogers, someone that I’ve had the privilege of working with numerous times in the past. I really love Dave’s openness and humility – he taught fantastically on Jonah and it was so good to hear the excitement and passion in his voice as he talked about some of his future plans. At the end of the meeting, he hurried me into his office to show me some songs he and his team had been working on, again with no pretense or competitiveness…just a genuine excitement about what God was doing through them.
People like Dave give me hope for a Kingdom-minded, God-centred, collective community of believers. Yes, the local church is the hope of the world but if we don’t work together to grow in our experiences, knowledge and expertise, our light that shines like a beacon grows little more dim. We are after all, one church. We should by all means build into our local churches and communities, but at all costs we should disassociate our omniscient, omnipresent God from a particular venue or area. God is everywhere – as much in a community a few miles away or thousands of miles away as he is in our own. I want to be a part of a local church that in itself is part of a global mission. That really is exciting to me. At that point, I believe that the local church really is the hope of the world!