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Why I’m Optimistic About the Church

When the Israelites reached Canaan’s door, they should have been brimming with excitement. The promised land was finally here! All those weeks of marching through the desert are finally over!

Instead, what happened as a rampant wave of pessimism.

The twelve spies had brought back their report. The land was indeed flowing with milk and honey, but they didn’t see any way of actually conquering it. The people were “strong” and their cities were “fortified.”

To make matters worse, it was also occupied by giants (Numbers 13:27-28).

To be fair, not everyone was pessimistic. Caleb and Joshua tried to reassure the people that they could take it with God’s help, but nobody listened. They decided to appoint a new leader and return to Egypt (Numbers 14:4).

And just like that, the forty years of wandering had begun.

The Power of Pessimism

How is it possible that a group of people, so motivated by God and Moses every step of the way, could falter at the finish line? Canaan was right there; why get disheartened now?

I don’t know if it’s a result of realized hope or failed expectations or just plain human nature, but this phenomenon isn’t unique. All of us have seen situations where one person’s attitude completely spoils the enthusiasm of a group. It’s infuriating how much power one little disgruntled voice can be.

The real problem with the people of Israel wasn’t their pessimism though, it was a lack of faith. Had they just seen the land the way Caleb and Joshua saw it — as an opportunity that could only be accomplished with God’s help — they probably would’ve been more amenable to marching in and taking the land.

Instead, they let that voice of pessimism get louder and louder, until eventually they all wept in despair (Numbers 14:1).

Why I’m Optimistic About the Church

I’ve seen this same issue take place inside local churches and the church at large.

All my life, I’ve heard people say that “the church is dying” and “people don’t care about the Gospel anymore.”

As a preacher, I can’t afford to hold that opinion. And as a Christian, we, as a group, can’t afford to either.

We have to maintain a positive attitude about the future of the church. Here are three reasons why I think doing so is an imperative.

Because Jesus Said the Kingdom Would Last Forever

The first and last reasons why we should be optimistic about the future of the church is because Jesus promised us that there would be a future. When He said in Matthew 16:13-19 that “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it,” He meant it.

Do you believe Him?

It’s easy to look back in history and see times when it certainly seemed like the church wouldn’t survive.

The French Revolution brought with it a whole lot of postmodern philosophy that seemed to threaten the foundation of Christianity.

The black death that killed off a third of Europe in the mid-14th century seemed like God’s hand of divine judgment.

What we need is patience.

In Exodus 14:8-18, the Israelites are backed up against the Red Sea with the greatest army in the world in fast pursuit. The people were anxious, dispirited, angry.

What did Moses say? “Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord.”

The church will always survive because there will always be a need for the church. As long as there are people who recognize the need for salvation, there will always be a body of people who have taken advantage of God’s grace.

No matter how big or small that group may be.

Because My Kids Need to Be In It

Every single Sunday and Wednesday, I see churches that are packed with families. Parents bringing children. Grandparents bringing grandchildren.

(In some cases, children bringing their parents.)

Why do we do that? If we truly believe that the church is dying and that people don’t love God as much as they used to, why even bother?

I would argue it’s because most people, despite their pessimism, believe that the church will be around in 30 years. And in 300 years.

What we should be focusing on instead of the latest Barna poll that shows the decline of Christianity is creating a legacy of faithfulness in our own children.

Psalm 78 says that we won’t conceal the things of God from our children, but will “tell the generation to come the praises of the Lord” (Psalm 78:4). The hope is that they’ll then “arise and tell it to their children” (Psalm 78:6).

The Rechabites (Jeremiah 35) are a perfect example of this. God deliberately uses them as an example of generational faithfulness because they followed the teaching of their grandfather that lived 200 years before them!

Will that type of faithfulness become prevalent in my family? Will I leave that type of spiritual legacy for my family?

Because My Evangelism Depends on It

If you don’t believe the church has a future, you won’t tell people about the church. Period.

Why would you? If you saw a company that was on the brink of total collapse, would you advise your friends to buy stock in it?

The belief that people “don’t care about God anymore” says a whole lot more about our attitude than the state of the world as it is today. People are no more worldly-minded than they were 1000 years ago, we just are told that they are. The narrow way is just as narrow as it was in Jesus’ today (Matthew 7:13-14).

Let’s say that’s not the case though and that there actually are less people that care about God now more than ever. Does that change your approach at all?

More importantly, should it change your approach?

In Luke 15:1-7, Jesus tells the story of the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep and goes after the one. Is that because the shepherd hated the 99? No. Rather, it was because he loved the one.

We should “love the one” too. Even if everyone in the entire world hated God and nobody will ever turn to Him, someone in your immediate circle might. And that’s worth having faith in.

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