A few years ago I had the privilege to speak in the oldest Methodist Church in Europe – Gibraltar! It was planted by one of John Wesley’s converts, a soldier from England, some 250 years ago.
It was very sobering to read the names on a wooden board inside the church building of the pastors, leaders, and their wives. Some went there for only a few months before a sickness took them; some were there many years! What an amazing history.
This fires me up...WHY? Because for 250 years a group of people has been faithfully ministering in that community. We are not talking about a one-off crusade, concert, or conference, which by the way are all valid, but they NEVER replace the church. Week in & week out, year after year, decade after decade, come difficulties, problems, deaths, and heartaches…Celebrations, birthdays, marriages, and God's word preached. God's people have been able to speak into that community, encourage and support one another, and pray for one another for over two centuries. Missionaries have been supported and sent from this church.
This for me is another proof that Christianity works and His Church will absolutely prevail. Today the pastor and church have influence on not only the Christian community, but also to the Governor and leaders of Gibraltar. It is still a healthy, vibrant, caring, evangelistic church.
I wonder if indeed John Wesley, let alone the people who began the church, had it in their mind the legacy they would leave, two and a half centuries later!! We are not talking about a large church either, but one that certainly has a large influence! The power of the Church...Wow! I want to say it again, but with a twist, "truly church planting is the BEST long term continuous method of evangelism under God's Heaven..."
This really hits home for me, as I was brought up in the Methodist Church in NZ...and I first realized the call of God in my life there. In fact, I can take you to the building and exact spot where this happened. Also, I became a Christ-follower in that church.
With Jesus as the centre, it is still true, as Bill Hybels so firmly states, "the church is the hope of the world..."