Hope can be empty and fruitless. Do you have reason to have hope for the Church?
We bicker and fight and split. We divorce and cheat like everyone else. We are often hateful. We fail to live out the high ideals we claim as our own.
I do hope that the Church focuses on core essentials like the reign of God, the person and teaching of Jesus, the resurrection, the activity of the Spirit now, the authority of the Bible, the value of people, and the importance of justice.
I don’t think we need to be asking “What is your hope for the Church?” Rather, is there good reason to have hope for the Church?
I say yes:
1. Cultural Christianity is melting. In the U.S., it is no longer expected that you know the Bible or go to church or give a rip about religion. This opens space for authentic Christians to live in a fashion that befits those who follow Jesus. It’s like a do-over, allowing us to consider our forms of worship, service, and living as disciples. It’s an exciting time.
2. The Bible is back. Ok, so it never really left. But in this season of re-assessing how we’re living out our faith, we are looking for a standard by which to make decisions. A renewed commitment to the Bible and theological grounding is undergirding growing churches in the U.S.
3. Justice is no longer only for communists. From my years as a college student in the late ‘90s to the past few years, there has been a significant shift. Back then, when I asked about Jesus saying, “Blessed are the poor” and “You cannot serve both God and money,” people looked at me like I had festering wounds on my face. Now, there is significant commitment amongst many evangelicals (as well as mainline Protestants, Pentecostals, and Catholics) to care for the poor like Jesus commanded. As we serve sacrificially, we earn credence with our critics.
4. Our nation is reeling. From 9/11 to Katrina to the Great Recession, we are not all as confident as we used to be. We have seen in a new way that we are vulnerable, not always well-liked, and may not be on an eternal upward climb of prosperity. So there is care to be offered to our neighbors, and our neighbors are asking serious questions in new ways.
5. These college kids are awesome. I started with InterVarsity in 2010. I encountered the thoughtful study of the Bible, the sacrificial living, and the robust engagement in academics and other spheres that have marked InterVarsity for 70 years. And these evidences of grace (and our other values) spring from our heritage of being student-led. We have 37,000 students on 500 campuses across the country, not to mention 500,000 more in our sister movements around the globe through the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES). These student leaders are a big reason to have hope for the Church.
6. We don’t have to do it all. The IFES is not the only reason to have hope about the global Church. According to Paul Borthwick, sometime in the mid- to late-1980s, the center of the gravity of the Church shifted from the West to the East and South. Our sisters and brothers abroad are rising up with vibrant faith. We North Americans need to learn from them and run alongside them. From my seat on the leadership team for the Urbana Student Missions Conference, I get to be a part of this first-hand. The next fifty years are going to be fascinating.
7. The big one. I have a final, big, and good reason to have hope for the Church—Jesus. He loves the Church with the intense care of a groom for his bride. He’s the King of kings, and he has overcome. In the building of his kingdom, he’s accomplishing his purposes and is working for our good and the good of the world.
I think we have good reason to have hope for the Church.