Jesus promised, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus did not assure us He would build our churches or that we could help Him build His Church. He is the One who builds His Church. Because Jesus will keep His people, will push the gates of Hades back, and gather people from every tribe, tongue, and nation, we can be optimistic about the Church. I shared five reasons, beginning with broad and unchanging and moving to more specific, I am hopeful for the Church in America in 2023, and today will share five more. Here are the five from Tuesday:
- More people recognize their need for community; the Church provides community.
- This world continues to fatigue; the Church offers Jesus’ message of grace.
- Clarity is desired; the Church offers truth.
- Learnings from the pandemic have been operationalized and will gain more traction.
- Seeds planted in local communities during the pandemic will bear fruit.
And here are five more:
6. Inflation and more co-vocational pastors will increase ministry among God’s people.
Thom Rainer recently wrote on trends that will impact the church in 2023 and commented on the increasing number of pastors working in the marketplace and serving a church. That trend coupled with inflation likely slowing hiring at many churches could hopefully cause more ministry to be handed to more of God’s people – to volunteers. Which is always beautiful and fruitful. In healthy churches, ministry is handed to people rather than hired away because of biblical convictions rather than economic realities. But surely God can use a trend to reignite a commitment to development.
7. God’s people continue to make Kingdom-oriented decisions.
God has always used His people to provide for His Church, even in challenging economic times. Thom Rainer also mentioned the increase in churches being adopted by another church. The leaders in churches who are dying and deciding to give their facility to another church are making Kingdom impacting decisions and God is pleased.
8. Young leaders continue to emerge.
The faith delivered once and for all to the saints continues to be passed to the next generation. From younger staff joining church teams to God’s continued movement among college students and teenagers, we see Him raising up younger leaders. I lead a Bible study group of high school seniors and have seen them develop and desire to serve others.
9. There is a hunger for theology among God’s people.
People have been well-discipled by the world, media, news, or a social-media feed and it does not bring joy or life. But for some it is bringing a sense of “I want to know more about God and His Word because this has not been enough for me.” The Scripture offers us a holistic vision for life and a weighty view of God that can sustain the pressures of our world.
10. Churches around the globe continue to inspire and educate us.
Technology has made the world smaller and increased the spread of news exponentially. One upside is the accelerated inspiration and learning we have from the Church around the world. We see pastors in India beaten and continue to preach. We see believers in Ukraine gather in the midst of war. We are inspired, but we are also able to learn from their rapid multiplication, their investment in younger leaders, and their commitment to serve their communities. Because we have their example, I am hopeful.
What Jesus declared is still true. The gates of Hades will not overpower His Church.