First off, Jesus is the hope of the world, but the Local Church is where the people who follow Jesus dwell together and live His life in community as a witness to Christ. So, the local church is the hope of the world only as it witnesses to and draws upon the power of Jesus Christ.
Bill Hybels, Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church
The Local Church is the Hope of the World
Everyone wins when a leader gets better. Hybel's dream for the Leadership Summit is that all leaders need an annual recalibration and vision infusion and heart/gut check regarding leadership. He wants leaders from all over the world to gather together and bring their leadership before God and ask for recalibration.
Matthew 16:18 - Jesus said he would build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. The local church is the hope of the world - Hybels has been saying this for years. What does he mean? Some people disagree with this.
When Hybels was growing up, he would have said that the church was hopeless. When most of what you see is lifeless and loveless, then it is also hopeless. He expected to be minimally engaged with the church throughout his life.
Acts 2:42-47 gives a different picture of the church - a church alive and giving and loving and changing lives and seeing people come together and be reconciled to God and to one another and changing the world. As a student in college, Hybels had a professor who referred to that passage and asked if Jesus was the same as he was back then? If so, then why can't we have a community of faith like that today? And, if we can, then will anyone in that class give their life to see that happen? This was getting through to Hybels.
Sometime after that, Hybels was seized by a vision from the Lord for a church like that. We need vision - we have to see how to move from "here" to "there." He became seized by what a church could be if the Holy Spirit was working and calling people and creativity and love and hope were being expressed. He became seized by this vision and gave his life to it. He moved from "the church is hopeless," to the place of thinking that "there is hope for the church."
He gave an evangelistic appeal and described what Christianity and following Jesus was - in detail. The power of God, a new life, a new way of looking at things, hope, and repentance, and change. He asked the youth to stand if they wanted that kind of life - if they wanted to follow Jesus. Hundreds and hundreds of kids wanted that kind of life. Hybels, after that event, said that he would keep calling people to Jesus if God would keep saving people through that call. Willow Creek was born after that.
He saw a fight one day on a plane between two young kids. God spoke to him after it was over with about the 9 year old boy who beat up the other kid about the direction that the kid was headed in. He was headed for destruction. What would change the trajectory of that kid's life to keep him from Hell and destruction? Only a fired-up Christ-follower who knew God's love and who was a part of a local church who loved God and was a healing community for that child could make a difference. Because the local church is the community of those who know Christ and experience His life and healing power, then the local church must be the ones who intervene in those children's lives. This was a lifechanging perspective.
If the local church is the way and the means through which Jesus is proclaiming His salvation and truth and life, then the local church needs to reach its full redemptive potential to mobilize its members in taking that life and message to a hurting world and bring more people into what God is doing so that His message of salvation is spread.
Will the local church continue on as a transformative entity as future progresses? Will we make it to the end of history? Governments empires and companies with huge amounts of assets and power have failed and disappeared. What gives us confidence that the Church will last and continue? It is because Jesus says that He will build it and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. It will continue on.
The ONLY thing that Jesus is doing between now and the end of history is building His church. He is building His Church all over the world among every tribe and nation and people and tongue. The greatest privilege in all of life is when Jesus taps you on the shoulder and says that He has a critical role for YOU to play as He builds His church in the world - and part of the reason that He calls you and equips you and empowers you is so that you will join Him as He builds His church. How can you say "No" to an invitation from the King of the Universe to join Him? How do you stay focused on building your own life and empire when Jesus calls?
Every day, we need to wake up and pray and recommit ourselves to building God's church both locally and globally - to commit our entire lives and treasure to what Jesus is doing in the world. What would happen if we all did this?