I see many well-intentioned efforts within the church – specifically the United Methodist Church – to encourage people to move beyond their walls and help “Change the World”. Only problem is, the church can’t change the world.
Sounds like the wrong thing for a pastor to say doesn’t it? For those who attend Asbury UMC it definitely seems strange based on the fact that I have been part of a group of pastors developing and promoting the Pasadena Faith in Action day on March 27th. It’s a day dedicated to uniting the Body of Christ in every denomination in our city to go and make a difference in the community.
But you see, I’m not saying we shouldn’t do what we can to show God’s love and make lives better. We should. It’s just erroneous to believe that as a church we can change the world. For example, we are making great strides to eradicate malaria in Africa through our work with Nothing But Nets. It is an admirable, God-pleasing effort. But, even with all our efforts we will not stop disease from being a reality in the world. Others are working to stop child trafficking and sex-trade rings – again, a noble, Godly effort. But, even if we put a stop to those things evil will not be vanquished in this world.
The Church can’t change the world. But, the church can change lives. The key to being the church that works to bring healing is to also be the church that brings hope. When the Christians of Pasadena go to their neighbors house and put on a new coat of paint they must realize the paint will one day begin to fade and chip – that transformation won’t last. But, when you bring healing and renovation into people’s lives you can also bring the good news of life in Jesus Christ. When people experience the love and grace of Jesus Christ in the depths of their soul THAT transformation will last. Knowing that disease and decay and evil will still exist is a hopeless feeling unless you have a relationship with the one who can see you through every difficult time. The one who promises eternal life in a home not made with hands but eternal in the heavens. A place where death and crying and pain are no more.
The church can’t change the world, but it can change lives. The church can’t eradicate disease and evil, but it can reduce the number of people who feel hopeless in the face of such struggles.
Go into the world. Paint a house. Heal the sickness. Stop a child from being exploited. But most of all, offer them Christ.
Holy high five to you, Mike