Connecting to Perspective

I work at a church in America and let me tell you, negativity is not difficult to find. It seems like every day I’m sent an article about the spiral the Church is in – whether it’s young adults leaving the Church, moral failures in Church leadership, the tragic lack of flannelgraph usage in children’s ministry… the list goes on and on.

If I’m not careful, I can get lost in this negativity. I can feel like the Church is in real trouble. I can wonder about its cultural relevance going forward. I can pine for a time when a show about a minister and his family was on network TV (RIP 7th Heaven).

Or I can open my eyes a little wider to what’s going on in God’s global Church.

Our church recently hosted our annual missions conference. We support 20+ local and international missionaries and nearly half came to the conference. As I spent time with them over the course of that week and half, a couple things became abundantly clear to me: One, the Church is a lot bigger than I make it out to be. Two, the Church is alive and well.

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God is doing incredible things all over the world. One of our missionaries who serves in Papua New Guinea just completed work on a translation of the Bible into a language that has never had its own Bible before. Some of our other missionaries serve in an area where they love and minister to predominantly Muslim refugees who are hearing and accepting the Gospel for the first time because of the kindness showed to them in the midst of their suddenly dire circumstances. Still another missionary, in cooperation with local support, has started a series of orphanages rescuing children who were being forcibly trained to be suicide bombers, but now are being loved, cared for, and introduced to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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And these are just a few of the thousands of our sisters and brothers who are serving God all over the world. Each and every one of those women and men have a good story to report if we’ll take the time to listen, and we need to listen. These stories put us on the front line of how the healing and redeeming power of God’s love is impacting people all around the world. We need to be encouraged by the good work God is doing. Too often we get frustrated and try to instruct God what to do and where to move, but we neglect to see the powerful work that is going on all around us.

1 Corinthians describes the Church as a body with many parts. We all have a part and each part is important–but if we only focus on our part, if we lose sight of the others, we can actually start to believe that the whole body is dysfunctional because our part isn’t operating as we feel it should.

For a hand, a hangnail can feel like impending disaster. For a foot, a stubbed toe can seem like the end is near. For a mouth, a corn chip stuck in the gums can feel like death. (And, no joke, this may hurt worse than death.)

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But for a healthy body, these are minor nuisances. Seasons of discomfort. Here today, gone tomorrow.

Connection to the global church helps give us perspective and reminds us of our place in this epic global mission that is the Church, the Family of God, the Bride of Christ. After spending time with our missionaries, I worry much less about the future of the Church. I feel energized and excited to be a part, however small, in the transformative work God is doing through their faithfulness. I would encourage you, if you ever feel down about the future of Christianity, the relevant power of the Gospel, or the impact of the Church, to seek connection with your sisters and brothers serving overseas. There’s mutual encouragement in that connection. Encouragement that can give us the energy we need to continue fighting the good fight here at home, and stay focused on things that matter.

Like getting flannelgraphs back into mainstream children’s ministry.

GeneralRyan Portnoy