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The Hope of the World

By Michael Roop

“In God’s design, the local church is the hope of the world.” 

That’s a big statement, isn’t it. On the surface, it seems arrogant and self-serving, especially coming from a pastor. What, is he trying to raise funds again? Aren’t we already in a capital campaign? Fair enough, so here’s what I’m not saying: I’m not saying Creekside is the hope of the world. I’m not saying the way we do church is the hope of the world. I’m definitely not saying Jesus isn’t the hope of the world. I’m just trying to grapple with the significance of one sentence from the mouth of Jesus, recorded in Matthew 16.

As He and his disciples entered the district of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks the disciples who they think He is. Without hesitation, Peter responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” That’s when Jesus says it, the sentence that gets me out of bed every morning: “I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Jesus tells his disciples that, on the foundation of Peter’s confession, He is going to build His ekklesia. That word, meaning “called out ones,” was used at the time to describe a group of various people who come together unified under a common cause. And while there are a few instances where this word is used in the New Testament to refer to the “Big-C Church” (all of God’s people from all time and space), it most often refers to the “little-c,” local church. 

So what is the unifying purpose of this ekklesia, built on the foundation of Peter’s confession? To break down the gates of hell, overwhelming its stronghold and plundering the souls held captive there. In other words, the church is Jesus’ succession plan. It is the institution that will carry on His mission once He is physically absent from the earth. It is the body that will do “greater works” than those done by Jesus (John 14:12). It is the means by which the kingdom of God breaks into this world as we await its full realization on the last day.

Really, the local church? But its so full of...people! And relationships! And expectations! I mean, on her best day, the church is a bit of a mess. This is Jesus’ plan? Take comfort. Just five verses after hearing “Blessed are you, Simon bar-Jonah,” Peter hears, “Get behind me Satan!” Jesus knows what, and who, He’s dealing with. He knows the glory that stands to be gained by using a group of fallen, self-absorbed sinners saved by His grace to accomplish His mission. 

In God’s design, the local church is the hope of the world. This audacious statement has gotten me out of bed in the morning for years. And you don’t have to join a paid ministry staff somewhere to be part of its mission. Quite the contrary! In the remainder of this four-part series, we will explore the three main New Testament metaphors for the church and glean wisdom for how we can join together in the hell-storming, kingdom inaugurating work of the local church, all according to God’s design and perfect plan.
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