(Editor's note: 501(c)3 is the tax exemption code the U.S. government gives to not-for-profit, charitable organizations, including churches.)
Anyone familiar with Bill Hybels has heard it: "The hope of the world is the local church." On dozens of occasions, I heard the phrase and nodded in agreement. The phrase led me to commit or recommit myself to serving the local church. The phrase caused me to weep. The phrase gave orientation to my life and to my work.
But lately when I hear it, my response is different. No commitment. No tears. No direction. Just a one-word question filled with doubt: "Really?"
I'm starting to believe the hope of the world cannot possibly rest with the 501(c)3 not-for-profit religious organizations dotting our landscape and holding themselves out to be "churches." It just can't be true.
It's not that I doubt God or the unique and saving nature of Jesus; I truly believe Jesus is the hope of the world. I do not doubt that God's plan is to empower and inspire ordinary ...1