Nothing Like the Local Church

Sept 2018

In his book Courageous Leadership, Bill Hybels writes: 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 offers truth to the confused. It provides resources for those in need and opens its arms to the forgotten, the downtrodden, the disillusioned. It breaks the chains of addictions, frees the oppressed, and offers belonging to the marginalized of this world. Whatever the capacity for human suffering, the church has a greater capacity for healing and wholeness.

It is that optimistic view of local congregations of fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ that Hybels no doubt has in mind in his oft-repeated statement “The local church is the hope of the world.” The key phrase in Hybel’s opening sentence above, however, is “when it’s working right.” 

Unfortunately, local churches all too often are not working right. In his book I Am a Church Member, Thom S. Rainer sadly acknowledges that reality and suggests a reason: “. . . I am proposing that we who are church members need to look in the mirror. I am suggesting that congregations across America are weak because many of us church members have lost the biblical understanding of what it means to be a part of the body of Christ.” 

In this simple proposal and suggestion, Rainer notes the fact that local churches  are made up of local members. Because of this, churches can never be working right if their members are not working right. Consider this “Last Word” a recommendation to every church member to thoughtfully read Rainer’s book. Consider it a plea to each local church leader to use it as a regular part of new member and other discipleship training efforts. Each of this book’s six brief chapters addresses an attitude or behavior critical to the ability of each local church to work right, and ends with a personal pledge. Additionally, each chapter ends with a series of questions that make this book wonderful for personal contemplation or group discussions. The chapter titles focus on such topics as being a functioning and unifying member, releasing personal preferences and desires, and praying for church leaders.

I am convinced that if the majority of each local church’s members understood, took, and faithfully fulfilled these pledges, they would soon work right. I am convinced that if the majority of each local church’s members understood, took, and faithfully fulfilled these pledges, they would truly be the hope of the world. 

By means of this “Last Word,” dear reader, I challenge you to be the one who begins making your local church even better than it currently is. Read I Am a Church Member. Faithfully fulfill the pledges, and encourage others in your local church to do the same. Begin making your church the hope of the world, the place where people can see the body of Christ working right. — Loren Stacy