The other day when someone found out I was the pastor of the newly built church building on Hall Rd & I-94 they said to me, “I think sometime in our lifetime the church as a whole will become irrelevant. Culture is changing,” they said.
It’s a legitimate thought. But allow me to offer why that will never be the case. That’s right, I used the word never very intentionally.
The simple answer is: because Jesus said so. The church will endure despite culture, politics or even powers. Jesus promised this in the very moment he spoke the church into existence. Over 2,000 years ago, in Matthew chapter 16 Jesus said, “…I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
We use the phrase from the Latin: ex nihilo, meaning he created the church “out of nothing.” Or He “spoke into existence” the same way He did in the creation account in Genesis 1 when He gave birth to the stars. This is the ex nihilo birth of the church, “spoken into existence.” And it happened. The church has spread like wildfire and it hasn’t slowed down since.
So, how is that the case? How has something with ancient roots grown taller and stronger throughout the years? Despite the rapid changes in culture and society, the church has been a constant, unstoppable force in this world.
When that person questioned the validity of the church, I explained how history shows us the church has proven to be the strongest only when persecution is greatest. He showed signs of curiosity enough to ask me the best question of all… “Why?” Why is the church necessary for my generation? And is it essential to have a new construction on one of the most prominent intersections in Macomb County? (He was hoping for an IKEA.)
The answer to those questions I gave him is profound, yet so simple: hope. Jesus and the church still are, and always has been, the hope for the world. I pray 100 years from now that the new building will still shout the message that God loves us unconditionally. He doesn’t love us “if” we go to church, check the box, or jump through hoops. God does not love us if. He loves us in spite of. In spite of our mistakes and in spite of our sins.
The hope of forgiveness. The hope of change. The hope of restored marriages, overcoming addictions, stepping up with social justice, helping the poor, caring for those who need cared for… and on and on it goes.
We are thankful for such a powerful grand opening of the new home for the Clinton Township campus just this past May, where over 5,100 people showed up. We have had hundreds of brand-new people coming every week since then. Even though they come for a lot of reasons, I think the main reason is because they are sensing this is a place to find hope.
And it’s because that’s what the church has always been a place of hope. And I believe Jesus when he promises that’s what the church will always be. We will continue to spread hope until Jesus comes back in His glory or we breathe our final breath on earth.
To answer the question, “Do we really need more churches?” The answer, very matter-of-factly is no. But we need hope. Whether churches meet in the bush in Africa or in a pocket of Southeast Michigan, they’re spreading the hope. And that hope can only be found in Jesus alone.
Now that beats an IKEA.