“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”
It stood as a silent beacon of hope. Only farmland and the bleakness of East Tennessee in winter surrounded it. There was no gym or recreation center. It only had one building, with architecture of no real consequence. There was no flashing sign, no marquee proclaiming its presence on the web, and parking was both in the lot and on the grass nearby. It was out of the way, and only my errands on that road made me aware of its existence.
But this little country church was exactly where it should be.
When Peter finally accepted his role as the founder of the organized church, he never forgot that its primary role was to be the great proclaimer of the Kingdom. As history has demonstrated, the forces of evil and hatred have time and time again assailed the walls of the church, but have broken like waves upon cliffs of stone.
In order to do that, however, the church was first and foremost local. All throughout the travels of Paul – and affirmed by Peter – the great missionary planted churches in order to take care of the local needs of Christians. These churches – often no more than house gatherings – were to take care of the poor and the widow, to instruct in faith and witness, to pray for the government in whatever form, and in all things to proclaim the Gospel of Christ.
The combined might of the Roman Empire was no match for this simple idea.
Think what would have happened if the American church had adopted this idea of outward expansion of the church thirty years ago at the beginning of the “tall steeple” movement. We would not have the sprawling campuses that describe many churches, but the country side would be dotted with buildings that call together the people of God. We might not have worship centers that can project pyrotechnics that would be the envy of any rock concert, but we would have sanctuaries where Christians can humbly gather to worship their Savior. We might not have Executive Pastors, Chiefs of Staff, or other hallmarks of the postmodern church. But what we would have is a local church that addresses the unique needs of the community, in all things proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.
So here’s to the small church that stands alone in the back roads of East Tennessee. Your building might not be the newest thing on the block. Your sanctuary may be drafty in the winter and stifling in the summer. Your pastor may have to work another job in order to support his calling to be a shepherd of the community of faith. But against your simple walls, not even the Gates of Hell can stand.
The church is Christ’s deep longing
And His good pleasure too.
His every word and action
Is made with her in view.
His heart’s love is established,
And nought can Him deter;
Before the earth’s foundation
His thoughts were filled with her.
–The Church is Christ’s Deep Longing