I believe the local church is the hope of the world. This statement has raised eyebrows. A common objection from outside the church is along the lines of “Are you kidding? The church is an obsolete and oppressive institution.” And from inside, “Jesus is the hope of the world. Church is optional.”
Historically, at times the church has been used as a means of oppression—from enslaver religion parading as Christianity to evangelical churches covering up the testimonies of sexual abuse. Jesus is our only hope and, sadly, church leadership has and will fail in catastrophic ways. Both objections fuel my passion for pursuing healthy churches in communities of poverty.
What is a healthy church? One that lifts high the Gospel of Jesus as a banner of hope for all and empowers people to improve the common good of society under the power of the Holy Spirit. Out of the 1.5 million registered nonprofits in the United States, the local church is the only institution that has been commissioned to storm the gates of hell (Matthew 16:18). The sin-sickness in our own hearts and in society at large are gutted, restructured, and remodeled, by the ministry of local, gritty, community-embedded, healthy churches.
Because of this confidence in what God is doing through the ministry of urban local churches, I am excited to share that World Impact, Barna Group, and the Baylor University Center for Church and Community Impact (C3i) have launched a much needed research project. We’ll be measuring the impact of urban churches on local communities.
For 51 years World Impact has worked alongside and observed the impact of local urban churches. Healthy urban churches serve as anchors for their neighborhoods and encouragement to the people living and working in their communities. The broader Christian Church too often undervalues these churches and fails to see the impact they have on quality of life in urban neighborhoods.
The full story of the transforming power of urban congregations remains unfamiliar. This study will tell their story. Rather than seeing them as charity cases, our hope is to celebrate the broad social, economic, and practical influence these churches have and invite readers to support the good work that is already happening. We hope to announce our findings late summer/early fall of 2023.
Thank you again for your prayers and support!
Be blessed. Carpe Diem!