I appreciated this encouraging article by Daniel Ritchie about how God is at work through His church. As I shared in a blog post a few months back, God is doing great things worldwide using His people—but we won’t hear about them if we just keep watching the news or reading social media and don’t purposefully go to other and better sources, and if we don’t open our eyes to His work in local churches.
Having been part of the same local church for 42 years, trust me when I say I am no stranger to problems in the church! But I am also no stranger to the beauty and goodness and local and global fruit of church life—though I would be had we chosen to walk away from church the various times we were tempted to. (Of course, God can call people to leave a church and go to or even start another one, and that happened to us 42 years ago! My concern is with giving up on all churches, which is increasingly common.)
May we never forget that our God is present with us and the local church, and at work in the world every minute of every hour of every day! —Randy Alcorn
By Daniel Ritchie
We live in an age of constant bad news. Mass shootings, wildfires, hurricanes, social and political division, distrust in the highest levels of government—everywhere you look it seems the world is holding on by a thread.
Turning your gaze to the church doesn’t seem to make things better. You see stories of pastors falling into sin and disqualifying themselves from ministry. There are heaps of abuse allegations. More churches than ever focus on felt needs rather than gospel truth.
But what if the church isn’t as bad as we assume? When we dig deeper, we see that social media thrive on bad news and drama while shoving good news off to the side. Perhaps the problem isn’t the church so much as the platform where we get our news.
Having spent the last year on the road as a speaker and evangelist, I have seen all sorts of churches from the East Coast to the West Coast. I’ve been in churches of 30 people and churches of 5,000. Traditional worship, contemporary worship, and everything in between. All sorts of backgrounds and demographics. Different places, different churches who worship the same God and share the same gospel.
These churches are witnessing lives pass from darkness to light. They’re meeting physical needs in their community. They’re raising a voice of change for people who don’t have the strength to muster a voice of their own.
Everywhere you look, the church is thriving. So why don’t you hear about it? It’s not sexy. No one will tweet about a church hosting an after-school program for at-risk elementary kids. Nobody wants to do a news story on the five people you baptized last week. Yet as Twitter is silent, heaven rejoices.
We don’t have to fall for the cultural narrative that the church is a lost cause. She certainly has her issues, and there is much work to be done, but the bride of Christ is still beautiful. She is clothed in splendor and is washed in the water of God’s Word. No matter where we worship, there are plenty of things we can thank God for.
As we discard the clickbait caricatures, may we thank God for three beautiful things we can see in his church today.
Through the work of the cross, God has adopted us as sons and daughters. He has given us relationships that are unbreakable and deep. We’re not bound by preference or personality; we’re brought together by grace and maintained in love.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph. 4:15–16)
Our relationship to the church is built and maintained by love: love of God and love of others. This global body is held together by God’s steady hand, that he may be glorified and his church may be edified.
A God-centered church is a God-sent church. John 20:21 reminds us that just as the Father sent Jesus to the world, so he sends us. Every day and every relationship offers us the opportunity to share his gospel.
And just as God said, the gospel is spreading. Young and old. Rich and poor. The church is growing by leaps and bounds in places where you’d least expect it. He is calling dead men to life, and he’s using the church to do it. He’s using your church to do it. God has sovereignly placed your church so that it may be a light on a hill for all your town to see.
Even as all of creation sings of God’s amazing attributes, his church doesn’t fail to tell of his works. Everywhere the body of Christ goes, it carries the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus can be clearly seen in his church.
God has given us a hope that doesn’t fade and a call that never grows old. As the author of Hebrews reminds us, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28). We received what we could never earn, which is why we sing of a hope that will never fail.
Though our local church may have issues, God still sees his bride. And so should we. May we give thanks for what the cross has won us: an unfailing hope and an unchanging purpose to see Jesus magnified in all the world.
Daniel Ritchie is a speaker and writer from Huntersville, North Carolina. He is a husband and father of two and the author of My Affliction for His Glory. He also writes at www.danielritchie.org,
This article originally appeared on The Gospel Coalition and is used with permission of the author.
Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash