As I consider the challenges and opportunities of this season, there are many people, organizations, and issues in need of prayer. Reflecting on the full corpora of these needs, one identifies a common thread. Whether it pertains to individuals bereft of spiritual life, those who are ill, the needs of our nation, or suffering in the world, the solution to each of these maladies exists in a loving Savior, the One whose life we have the privilege of embodying. Therefore, in the interest of serving the needs of the world, I feel compelled to pray for the Church. In particular, I am praying that we would manifest the good news of Jesus Christ with the utmost humility and grace.
Theologian Edmund Clowney (1917 – 2005) expounded consistently the necessary role of the Church in the world. In his book The Church, he begins by defining the Church in biblical terms, thereby countering prevailing misconceptions and setting forth a vision for how we can serve in the name of Christ. In the following quotation, Clowney offers a valuable exhortation to inform our prayer.
“To be sure, if the church rather than Christ becomes the centre of our devotion, spiritual decay has begun. A doctrine of the church that does not centre on Christ is self-defeating and false. But Jesus said to the disciples who confessed him, ‘I will build my church.’1 To ignore his purpose is to deny his lordship . . .
The very threats to the existence of the church in the twenty-first century show again our need of the church. The courage to stand apart, to be unashamed of Christ’s claims, is nurtured in the community of those who are baptized into his name. The church may not apply for a union card in a pluralistic establishment by signing away its right to proclaim the only Saviour of the world. Together we must make clear that it is to Christ and not to ourselves that we witness. In that witness we are not only individual points of light in the world, but a city set on a hill. In the ethnic hostility that ravages Europe, Africa and the Middle East, the church must show the bond of Christ’s love that unites former enemies as brothers and sisters in the Lord. Only so can the church be a sign of his kingdom: the kingdom that will come when Christ comes, and that is already present through his Spirit.”2
1 Matthew 16:18.
2 Edmund P. Clowney, The Church (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 15-16.