-By Rev. Jeff Gannon, Senior Pastor
I think the universal church of Jesus Christ has a self-esteem problem. I think we, as the Body of Christ, have legitimately been diagnosed with having an inferiority complex. It is not any secret we have seen a statistically accurate drop off in church attendance. And, many of the “experts” say our competition is not agnosticism or atheism. More and more people are claiming to be spiritual and not religious, faith-filled but not church-goers. I think it is a temptation to blame the perceived secularization of American culture. Major challenges are rarely simple but rather complex and complicated and this issue is not the exception to that rule.
Here’s a portion of Dr. Campolo’s sermon…
“Having been a staff member at Eastern University for more than 40 years, I run into young people who are somewhat cynical about the church, and they want a reason why they should be committed to the church of Jesus Christ. Before I do anything intellectual, let me just give you some facts. The church is the greatest success story in the history of the human race. Let me affirm that. Now that’s an easy thing to say until you start doing what sociologists do: lending statistics to support it.
Twenty-five years ago, forty-five thousand children died every day either from starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. That’s quite incredible. Today it’s down to nineteen thousand. Now we have a long way to go from nineteen thousand to zero, but there is a big difference between forty-five thousand and nineteen thousand. And I ask you who has been a major force in bringing about that change? It’s the church of Jesus Christ. We’re the ones who set up the medical centers, the clinics around the world. We’re the ones who through organizations like Compassion International and World Vision have sponsored children by the tens of thousands, yeah hundreds of thousands so the children are going to school and they’re getting an education and are learning about Jesus Christ as Lord, Savior and God. We are the ones who are making a difference.
Let me go a step further. Twenty-five years ago, eighty percent of the population on the planet was illiterate. Today it’s down to twenty percent. Guess who has done most of the literacy work. Guess who has done the translations that have brought the Bible into the language of indigenous people. Guess who has taught men and women, boys and girls how to read, write, and do arithmetic. There are other forces, of course, but the primary one is the church of Jesus Christ.
Let me just go and say that more than twenty-seven years ago, I got a telephone call from Millard Fuller and he said, “I want you to serve on my board Habitat for Humanity.”
And I said, “What’s that about?”
“We’re going to build houses for poor people. We’re going to raise money, buy building materials. We’re going to build the houses.”
I said, “Who’s going to build the houses?”
He said, “Church people.”
I said, “Church people like me we’re going to build houses?”
He said, “Right.”
Twenty-seven years later, Habitat for Humanity has completed its one-millionth house. Is that incredible? Now I don’t want to let the government off the hook. The government has its responsibility to take care of the poor and the needy and the oppressed, but nobody’s going to be able to match the church of Jesus Christ when it comes to building houses. These are some of the good news things.
But twenty-five years ago, one out of every sixth person has no access to clean drinking water. Today it’s one out of twelve. The situation has improved one hundred percent bringing good water out of the ground so that people can drink clear water without diseases. And who has dug these wells? Who has put in these pumps? Other people have joined us, but it’s been the leadership of the church of Jesus Christ. We are.
It’s easy to give a reason for the faith that lies within me. I know of no instrument in history that has done what the church has done, not only over the years, over the centuries, but even in today’s contemporary society. The church.
Sometimes my students say, “The church is full of hypocrites.”
And I always respond by saying, “That’s why you’re going to be at home among us. I mean the minute you walk in you’re going to look around and say these are all hypocrites.” You’re right! We are hypocrites who by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit are endeavoring to overcome our hypocrisy. Amen?
The Bible says this: We are not what we ought to be. It hath not yet been revealed what we’re going to be, but someday we’re going to see him and then we shall be like him. We’re on our way, people. We’re on our way.” From Dr. Tony Campolo
Jeff here again…The church is God’s idea because we need each other in order to be fully faithful and fruitful. God desires for us to live in community. As I like to say, the goal is not independence or dependence but interdependence. Living interdependently is modeled after the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is mutual admiration, mutual submission, mutual love, and mutual adoration.
When we live interdependently, we bless the world. Without the church of Jesus Christ, there would not be Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Wesley Medical Center, Via Christ, or even Wichita State University. There would not be Southwestern, Newman, Friends, Bethel, Tabor Bethany, Hesston, Baker, Kansas Wesleyan, Barclay and the list goes on. All of these institutions were started by the church of Jesus Christ.
A major first step is to explore what we have done to live faithfully and fruitfully and to give thanks! We have done more than we can imagine or think.
Next week….what are the solutions for the future? We will continue the conversation….Dr. Campolo has some interesting ideas….stay tuned.