November 2, 2013

The Importance of the Local Church for Ministry Among the Poor (2)

We have just finished a 10-day trip to Canada sharing about the work of 20schemes and also partnering with 9Marks for a day conference on church planting among the poor. Some of the questions we were seeking to answer were: Why is the local church so important in the life of the Christian? Why does the ministry of 20schemes and 9Marks place such a heavy emphasis on enabling, resourcing, and revitalising gospel ministry in local churches? I want to take time over the next week to lay out some thoughts.

The first reason we looked at this week was: Because the local church is fundamentally important to the purposes of God.

The second reason for the importance of the local church for ministry among the poor is:

The importance of the church to the watching world.

Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, saying:

“And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. . . .”

The church is to be a witness to Jesus in the world. It is his head and body here on earth. This universal church is made up of all sorts of people. When this was written it was Jews, Greeks, slaves, and free people. People from all walks of life.

The same is true whether we are in Niddrie, or if you are reading this in rural America. Within the worldwide church, we are made up of people who have worked all their lives, those who have never worked, those who are well, and those who are ill. Men, women, and children. Some have been to University, and some never finished High School. The point is that if we claim to follow Jesus, we are all one in him, whether we live in Calgary, D.C., or Edinburgh. We all represent Christ here on earth through our local body of believers.

“Therefore, the church is central to the purposes of God and is of benefit to the world around us even today in our increasingly hostile culture.”

We are called to be imitators of Jesus regardless of our income, our personal circumstances, or our social status. We can be Christ’s ambassadors right where we are. Just because we may not have a state of the art building or a large congregation does not give us a get out of jail free card on this stuff. Who will be the light to our poor communities if it is not local churches, holding out the gospel and passing on the baton? We need flaming bonfires of gospel light slap-bang in the centre of our schemes and housing estates. We need gospel light burning so bright in our midst that it reaches into all the dark places. What better place to see this light than in a functioning gospel community? A healthy, gospel-centred church is a light to the watching world. Why churches on schemes? That question is moot once we understand God’s purposes for the world.

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