Hope for the Church
We are living in a shifting spiritual landscape in which the church as an institution is no longer intrinsically valued as a central place in society. You may be grieving and even frustrated at the loss of position in our culture and understandably so. But regardless of our standing in an ever changing society, God’s purpose and plan for His people doesn’t change. God has made known the depths and breadth of His grace to us in Christ, so that we can make it known to others. Together, the church displays His wisdom even to the rulers and powers in the heavenly places.
Though our churches as religious organizations may not hold central place in society, the people of God have always been and always will be central to His work in the entire world until Jesus returns.
We can grieve the loss of position. But if we get stuck in our grieving we’ll simply be clinging to outward signs of a religious culture, instead of effectively connecting the hearts of the people in the world we now live in, with the heart of God. Remaining focused on our central role in God’s work helps us to remain directed by our identity as a people on mission with Him. This motivates and mandates us to be agile and responsive to the Spirit and the world around us instead of being limited by the changing landscape and circumstances in which we live and minister.
So where do we start? With a humble and courageous heart. Paul considered himself “less than the least of God’s people.” As we make our way in the world, we must always do so from a realization of our own continuous need for God and reliance on His grace. Just as God has met us where we are, we must be willing to meet others where they are. Instead of getting frustrated at a world that “doesn’t get it”, listen carefully to identify the underlying interest and longing of people’s hearts. Consider how the tone and content of our speech and actions in person (and online) reflect God’s heart, especially towards those with whom we may disagree religiously and/or politically. Be willing to prioritize time in relationships with those who don’t know Jesus and journey with them patiently.
Paul wrote Ephesians from a jail cell. We may not face imprisonment, but sharing our faith and living a life together that embodies the Kingdom still requires much courage in our current context. This means we have to face a world that might feel increasingly unfamiliar with a willingness to love and engage it. It means letting go of some comfort and familiarity and embracing some risk and uncertainty. It means standing confidently and persisting faithfully for the Kingdom in the face of opposition. It means adjusting our lives and our schedules to prioritize some intentional friendships. It means tactfully and thoughtfully initiating some spiritual conversations.
Ephesians 3 tells us we are recipients of His grace. We are stewards and distributors His grace. We are central to His work in the world. We are a people on mission with God.