The past two years have taught us a lot, haven’t they?
Specifically, I’m thinking about the church. The lockdowns have proven just how essential
it is for local believers to gather together. A stinging emptiness nags the soul starved of regular,
Flying solo simply doesn’t work for the Christian. Just as God designed humans with a need
for Him, He designed us with a need for each other—which means corporate worship lifts us to
the peak of all blessings in this life. There’s nothing like God’s people assembling in worship
to seek God’s face.
- Together, His presence deepens.
- Together, our joy increases.
- Together, our burdens lighten.
- Together, our convictions strengthen.
Yet . . . while gathering together is essential, it isn’t sufficient. God’s
people must gather together for God’s purpose and in God’s way. Otherwise,
He keeps His blessing behind heaven’s doors; His blessing cannot be
manufactured. It will not come by accident. Jesus cannot be manipulated.
He will not bless just any gathering. His Word clearly teaches what a church
must be and do for it to be truly His. Consider Acts 2:42–43:
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to
fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper),
and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all.
Without a clear vision grounded in this passage and others
like it, a local church risks straying from its divine calling
and forfeiting its very identity. Glad times, sad times—the
circumstances don’t matter. Churches with a wrong or
weak vision easily drift during peace and prosperity as
well as pressure and persecution.
In light of the past few years, I think now’s a good time for us to lift our eyes above the
daily grind and to revisit the basics of what a church is and does . . . which is why Insight
for Living Ministries is airing The Church Awakening series in April and May.
I preached this series during a trying season that forced me to examine the Bible afresh
in order to sharpen my understanding of the church and to refortify my convictions. Believe
me, our adversary aims to destroy each and every local church. He loves it when a church
becomes uncertain of its purpose, blurred in its vision, compromised in its values, and
degraded in its character.
Thankfully, however, our Lord will always honor and bless any local congregation that
faithfully gives itself to the Bible’s directives. For that reason, it’s vital for you personally to
have a crystal-clear vision of God’s plan for the church.
I’m a man of the church and a man for the church. Insight for Living Ministries has
never aimed to replace the church, and we never will. On the contrary, we simply want to
strengthen Jesus’ local assemblies by strengthening His followers. We’re accomplishing
this purpose by modeling biblical preaching, teaching what to look for in church leaders,
equipping church leaders, and supporting international pastors.
For example, our United Kingdom pastor, Terry Boyle, is holding two pastor-training
conferences in Ethiopia this summer while our Chinese ministry pastor, Ed Shyu, is leading
pastor-training conferences for Chinese pastors in New York, Maryland, and Virginia later
this year. These pastor-training initiatives only touch the surface of our ongoing endeavors
and the other new opportunities we’re exploring.
Know, then, that when you give to IFLM, you’re not only sending out God’s Word all
over the world in nine languages but you’re also strengthening church leaders and local
churches . . . all over the world. If you are excited about this work like I am, will you
please pray for IFLM and then send us a generous financial gift this month?
Local churches are dear to my heart, which is why I resonate with these words about the
church from 18th-century pastor, Timothy Dwight. May they be true for all of us today:
For her my tears shall fall,
for her my prayers ascend;
to her my cares and toils be giv’n,
’til toils and cares shall end.
Toiling with you for God’s people,
Pastor Charles R. Swindoll