We’re in the middle of a sermon series about the role of the church in the world now that we find ourselves on the outside, since statistics show that there are more unchurched people than churched people in the United States. It’s a hard place to be. But we aren’t alone. The global church has something to teach us about being on the outside looking in.
My primary experience with the global church has been in Egypt, a place where Christians are the minority. And, at times, they have also been persecuted for their faith. And yet, the church is growing, not just in membership, but also in the number of churches.
It’s not something that happened overnight, or by accident. Rather, their growth has been the result of intentional, dedicated, and faithful effort.
It’s surprising because it is illegal to build a church in Egypt. Meaning, you can’t buy a piece of land and decide to build a church on it. So, church leaders got creative and started non-profits that provided tangible services to the community. It varied place to place, but it could be something like a medical center or dental office, or a school or childcare center. And then, in the same building, church leaders could also offer a Bible study or a worship service.
And the government struggled to shut down the non-profit that was really a church, because it was providing a tangible service to the community that the government had been unable to provide. The church was making their communities better places to live.
Most of these non-profits turned churches started small, with just a few people gathering for Bible study or worship each week. But over time those churches became vital parts of the community because of the services they offered. And people were drawn to those churches because of the love they showed the community through their actions.
And so, churches grew. And then those churches planted other churches so that the gospel message began to spread.
I’m grateful for what I’ve witnessed in Egypt. And I’m thrilled to be making a return trip to Egypt in just a few weeks! I’m excited to reconnect with friends, but even more, I’m excited to see what God has been up to since I was last in Egypt. Because on each trip I am reminded again that while the world is changing, while our communities are changing, and while the church is changing, we are not without hope. Because God is still working!