(Episode 3 of 25 Weekly Episodes)

Why the church?

I will build my church.

These famous words once uttered by our Lord Jesus Christ, through the ages, have given hope and inspiration to countless church leaders to continue with their efforts, even against the greatest odds under very challenging conditions. There are also those who argue that this quote is an “anachronism” that was “put into the mouth of Jesus by Bible writers”. But that is an argument for another day. A well known US church leader has gone much further than Jesus by declaring that “the local church is the hope of the world” and that the positive impact of the work done by church leaders far outweighs the impact of the contributions made by leaders in other spheres, including business and political leaders.

The same church leader goes on to argue that unlike leaders in business, government and the education sector, church leaders actually have the “:power to change the world”. He continues along these lines and asserts that church leaders “have the potential to be the most influential force on planet earth”. If we accept and believe the words of Jesus that “the gates of hell will not prevail against the church” and if we buy into the idea that the church is the “most influential force on planet earth” should we not be in some sort of “acceleration mode?”. Perhaps we should not forget that there are voices warning us that we are lagging behind an “opposing movement" that is growing at a much faster rate than the church.

There are three well known examples that Jesus used in the New Testament gospels on how to “influence one’s environment” - light, salt and seed. One can make one’s own assumptions about the lessons to be drawn form these but in essence there is on the one hand, a very direct and very visible manner in which one can make a difference to one’s surroundings - like a candle being lit in a dark room. Then on the other hand there is the “not so visible’ effect like salt in food - providing taste without being visible - tasted but not seen. Then there is the lesson of the mustard seed - small at first, but bog in the end. So, the approach of the church should not be “either or” but a “both and more” approach.

Have we as church leaders (or some of us) perhaps underestimated the contribution that we are making in our communities and in our cities? Do we perhaps act with this “low self esteem posture” on an ongoing basis? Or is our contribution “under publicised”? Even worse - do we shy away from publication because we in fact do undervalue and underrate the impact of our labours? Many of us perform our tasks in under resourced organisations serving under resourced communities, sometimes under the most difficult conditions imaginable. What should be our posture if the leader of the movement himself has assured us that the gates of hell will not prevail against us? Scripture is open to interpretation. But in how many ways can one interpret the so called “great commission” at the end of Matthew’s gospel? No matter how you read it - there is very little (if any) ambiguity there. The disciples of Jesus (the church?) represent a movement “on the go”. A movement instructed and authorised to carry out the “Mandate of the Master” - go, make disciples, baptise them and teach them to obey. Our mandate is to build an “empire” - God’s kingdom. An alternative society here on earth. That should be the posture of the church of our Lord Jesus Christ here on earth. An empire building movement, mandated and authorised by the One with all the power. Feel free to disagree. To be continued…

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