The Local Church is the Hope of the World

Title: The Local Church is the Hope of the World

Bible Book: Matthew 16 : 17-19

Author: Jerry N. Watts

Subject: Church



This morning I begin with a confession. These five Core Beliefs on which we agree, and have spent 5 weeks on, have been my personal core beliefs for almost 15 years. In praying about this message, I was attempting to recall where I had first heard this concept and was reminded that while at Glorietta (1996), Bill Hybels spoke these words and the truth contained therein stuck, “The Local Church IS indeed the hope of the world.”

Then in 2002, Bill wrote “Courageous Leadership” and included his personal words about this truth; “There is nothing like the local church when it’s working right. Its beauty is indescribable. Its power is breathtaking. Its potential is unlimited. It comforts the grieving and heals the broken in the context of community. It builds bridges to seekers and opens its arms to the forgotten, the downtrodden, and the disillusioned. It breaks the chains of addictions, frees the oppressed, and offers belonging to the marginalized of this world. The potential of the local church is almost more than I can grasp.”

When we read the words of Jesus, it becomes crystal clear that Jesus had and has big plans for His church (I.E. building, body, and bride). Does this strike anyone but me as “Odd?” In no uncertain terms Jesus states that HIS church will be able to stand against the gates, forces, literally the doors of hell. And the early church did this well. Turn with me to Acts and let’s get a glimpse and rag-tag group of believers who had few resources and turned the world upside-down. (Acts 1, 2, 4,6)

I. A Display of This Church

Just like the picture on a puzzle box, this helps.

A. God Plan

(2:1) they were altogether. The local church will never become the “hope of the world” until 2 things happen; a) we can identify who the real church is and b) we all come together in unity. Today, we simply need people to “not forsake assembling.” Last Monday, Bro. Mickey and I were talking and he referred to a syndrome which seems to be permeating the “CHURCH” today. It is what I call “attending in shifts.” Like them, if we were to get everyone who attends occasionally to regularly assemble, there would be a need for chair all the time. God’s plan is not for 2 or 3 to gather, His plan is for all to gather. By the way, to pick and choose what you support in the church is to give Satan an inroad into the life of the church. Through our inconsistency, Satan can send the spirit of discouragement and disunity throughout the body.

B. God’s Power

When they were altogether in one accord and one place, the manifest presence of God fell in power. All of a sudden this normal prayer meeting turned into something which could not be explained by the words of man. God power showed up like flames of fire, indwelt each one of them, and gave them the ability to do some unusual things. This is the norm for the people of God; to do what humans say is impossible.

One of the reasons why so many churches are many so little difference is that nothing goes on which can only be explained by God’s power. God gave HIS people the ability to speak different languages. This wasn’t a show of pride by God, but it had a divine purpose.

C. God’s Purpose

The way God works is powerful. His people are almost always the instrument which He uses to bring His message to others. The sound (like a tornado) piqued the interest of those outside of Christ so they came seeking and then power was in place for the believers to share the truth with those who needed it. And God kept reinforcing the diligence of the believers to the point that people asked, “What must we do?” Please hear this; their heart that was pierced by the Holy Spirit was softened by the obedience, testimony, and the evidence of the believers. This local church brought hope to this corner of the world because individually they lived by God’s plan, were filled with God’s power, and participated in God’s purpose. The result was 3000 people were saved. A footnote is that they didn’t stop there. For too long we have stopped the process at this point.

D. God’s Pattern

Acts 2:42-47 reveals the nuts and bolts of how a church is to become a World Mission Strategy Center. Every person must take his place, totally commit to the cause of Christ, and engage as a member of the family. God’s pattern for every “church” can be given in 6 actions found here. In verse 42 they engaged in discipleship, fellowship, and prayer. In verse 44-45, they engaged in ministry while verse 46 demonstrates them worshipping (not weekly, but daily). Finally, in verse 47 the overflow of their daily lives was people being saved, evangelism.

This is a picture of the church like Jesus builds. It is a group of people totally focused on God, His word, His plan, power, purpose, and pattern. This is the church that stands against the forces of hell.

Yet, consider that local church after church is not standing against the forces of hell, but are faltering and falling against the frailty of humankind. Depending on who you read, between 70%-90% of American churches are plateaued or declining. If God planned for us to “turn the world upside down” what has happened? With such a great start what happened? Something broke.

I find a similarity today between the average modern day church and Apollo 13. While many young people today think this is only a movie, I remember the 1970 flight. Also, Fred Haise was born and raised in Biloxi, MS. (Watch)

While the most familiar phrase in that clip is “Houston, We Have a Problem” the last words, “We do have that much time” strikes home with me. But there are several similarities we can apply. First, the course was charted, planned, and began. Then the problem came. Did you notice the confusion? Everyone was trying to figure it out. But only one thing mattered; let’s get the crew back safely. With that simple purpose, they did it.

Perhaps the truth is that we have become too complicated and too program oriented in the modern day church. The church which Jesus built was one dimensional; “Make Disciples” were His final words to us. This means as we ‘go’, we ‘show’; as we ‘show’, we ‘tell’; as we ‘tell’, we ‘bring’; as we ‘bring’, we ‘baptize’; as we ‘baptize’, we ‘grow’; and as we ‘grow’, we ‘go.’

II. A Design for this Church

The design determines whether anything is effective or not. Today the local church, with so much promise and expectation, is seemingly in trouble. So what Biblical truths can help us turn the corner and make an impact on this World? We find the answer for this in the first sentence of our quote from Bill Hybels, “There is nothing like the local church when its “working right.” When a church is working right it is indeed the hope of the world and when it’s not working right, it brings hopelessness to the world. Jesus gives 3 needs or requirements;

A. The Right Foundation

Jesus says, “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church.” There is much debate about these words. For year, the Roman Catholic Church has interpreted this as Jesus building His church on Peter. So they view Peter as the first Pope and things progressed from him till today. On the other hand, Protestants believe the Greek language to be indicative of Christ’s meaning. Jesus said, “You are Peter (the little rock)” and pointing to Himself Jesus continued, “And on THIS rock (a boulder) I will build my church.” While people today be confused and/or debate this meaning, Peter was not confused at all. In his first Epistle he wrote, “The stone which the builder rejected is the Chief cornerstone and has been laid in Zion.” Paul knew that Jesus was the foundation.

Some will respond, “This is trite because what else can a church be founded on?” There are churches which are founded on social agenda, fellowship, music, or even families. When Jesus is the foundation, then Jesus sets the agenda. His agenda is a Kingdom agenda and a Kingdom agenda leaves no room for personal agendas. The Kingdom agenda is to bring everyone into a personal relationship with Jesus for the saving of their soul and then being discipled as a part of Christ.

B. The Right Framework

On the south side of the Back Bay in Biloxi is a neighborhood of houses. The local people call these are “Patio Homes” because watching these houses being built, they didn’t appear to be strong enough to handle a strong storm. Even with a firm foundation, it the framework is not correctly built, the structure is doomed.

The framework has to be able to handle the internal and external as well as the expected and unexpected stress. To do this requires that the framework be up to specs!

Jesus says, “I will build my church and the forces of hell will not prevail against it.” In other words this structure will be so well built that it will stand “whatever” comes against it. What are some of the materials which are sturdy enough to frame up the church?

The Word of God is the first piece of lumber we need to build the structurally sounds framework. This is why HBC’s most fundamental belief is that the word of God guides us. However, we must not simply write, say, or memory this truth, we must live out this truth. The Psalmist wrote, “Your work have I hid in my heart that I may not sin against you.” Candidly, the reason so many local congregations have such a “flimsy” framework can be found in this truth. If we don’t know what the word says, then we can stay away from sin because we really know what sin is. You and I don’t get to define sin, God does!

The Gospel of Jesus is also needed. The Bible tells us about our sin and the wages for sin while the gospel tells us of the good news of Jesus. For the church to be the hope of the world, these two must be the framework which holds the Church together.

C. The Right Function

From Acts 2, we discover the 6 actions which the church must major on if they are to be the hope of the world. We speak of them regularly in our groups. They are prayer, worship, discipleship, evangelism, fellowship, and ministry. But these 6 functions can be summed up in 2 personal actions called the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Becoming the “hope of the world” will only happen when the church becomes spiritual, not just spiritual in worship, but in word, deed, daily life, and actions. Until the church, that is you and me, have a heart for God and His righteousness, the church will not be the hope of the world. If the church does not offer hope to the world through their lives, ministries, and actions, then the world will have no hope. Hope is in found in Jesus and Jesus is found in the lives of the authentic believers who make up the Local church.

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