Well known mega-church pastor, Bill Hybels, is famous for his oft-repeated statement, “The church is the hope of the world!”. So, how does that hit you? Some would say that is an overstatement. Some would say that the world is truly without hope, that the church just simply makes this world tolerable until Christ comes back. Some would say, “It depends upon your eschatology” (yeah, I had to throw that in there, it means your theology of the end of the world).
The biggest “push-back” I’ve really ever heard is that Jesus, not the church is the hope of the world. Which sounds incredibly spiritual…but at best it’s Biblically inaccurate at worst it’s an intentional denial of the true nature and purpose of the church. Let me explain:
What is the nature of the church?
The main metaphor used to describe the church in the Bible is the Body of Christ. We are told that Jesus Christ is the Head and the church is the body. Taking this analogy the church is the main and only outlet for the will of Christ to be accomplished on the earth. Now that is a powerful statement. If you woke up tomorrow to your screeching alarm and your brain sent a message to your right hand to reach over and smack the crap out of it, but your hand didn’t move you’d be concerned. The natural outlet of your brains or heads desires is your body. In the same way the natural outlet of the desires and will of Christ is the Church!
What is the purpose of the church?
When Jesus Christ left this earth he gave this very specific command to the men who would launch the church,
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.” – Matthew 28:19-20.
So, the purpose of the church is to reach people for Christ and then train them to be like Christ (disciples). But, how do we do that? Paul answers that question,
“And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” – 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.
So, the purpose of the church is to reach people for Christ, train them to be like Christ, and our method of doing that is to be the ambassadors or representatives of Christ’s message to the world which is “Come back to God!”
According to the Bible the church IS the way the message of Jesus Christ is getting out. So, the question then becomes, “Is Jesus Christ the hope of the world?” The answer is found in the book of Matthew (other places as well, but this is really the clearest and most compelling), as he retells a prophecy given several hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ…
“Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen. He is my Beloved, who pleases me. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not fight or shout or raise his voice in public. He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. Finally he will cause justice to be victorious. And his name will be the hope of all the world.” – Matthew 12:18-21
Since Jesus is without question THE one and only Hope of the world, and we his church are the main and only outlet for the will of Christ to be accomplished on the earth, then the church without question and without embarrassment IS THE HOPE OF THE WORLD!
Now the question is are we living up to our billing?