Pastor Bill Hybels boldly declared.
It is hard to dispute that. I am a firm believer in the local church and this is one reason almost the whole of my working life has been invested in her. This conviction is not over and against para-churches or inter-church organisations/movements, as these have their role.
The reasons are many, whether biblical or anecdotal.
Our Lord Jesus Himself focused on small communities. And 12 was indeed very small. The biblical letters in the New Testament were mostly addressed to small local churches. Some can be as small as the Connect groups we have in SAC today. And then, there are seven letters in Revelation...
The almost daily community in prayer and mutual accountability is second to none. In the local church family, you don’t get to choose who you like to be with. In love, humility, grace and lots of forgiveness, you learn to work together. There is no back door. At least that has been so for me and no matter how difficult the conflicts can be, we learn to love and accept one another. Through that we truly grow.
In the local church, we eat, sing, pray and sit to listen to sermons together. New believers are added from time to time, but the company remains very much the same. Same pew, same hall and more or less, same pastor. Boring? Maybe. Fruitful? Absolutely. Time and constancy produces deep and lasting results.
Think of Missions. While there are the occasional lone rangers, some of the most lasting work was done by local churches. We sometimes forget, but the Anglican Church herself is a missionary movement that has planted parishes which are deeply integrated into societies. The same can be said of an Assembly of God or Methodist Church.
I served for a stint as the National Director of Alpha Singapore. I saw some amazing ministry in the workplace and prisons, avenues which the local church is not directly involved in. And yet, it is always small groups in long and rich accountability which bear lasting fruitfulness. At some point, I realised my calling was in the local church and decided that the best way I can help other churches to do Alpha well is for the parish to be a good model.
It has been 41 years since I first joined a local church. But by His grace, I still wake up each day, excited about what He is doing through her. Whether based at Dover Road, Holland Road or St Andrew’s Road, the parish grows more savoury and luminous with time.
It is undoubtedly my personal calling to be a local church pastor. I find that a great privilege. Do join in the journey. It may be generally pedestrian with occasional bursts. And journeying together has its own stresses. But walk long enough, and you will experience the richness of a faithful community that grows up together over many generations.
She is, indeed, the hope of the world.