“Jesus said to them, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him . . . ‘And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.'” (Mattew 16:15-16, 18)
Why are churches so central to the work of community renewal in our cities, and so central to The Oaks Project’s strategy? Listening to Jesus gives us a few ideas:
- The church belongs to Jesus, and Jesus builds it.
- The church is built on broken people like Peter who confess that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Christ, who came to make all things new.
- The gates of hell cannot withstand the church.
Jesus is reconciling the entire world to himself, and he chooses to do it by building on people who recognize that he is the King of the world who has come to bring good news. But notice Jesus’ special promise to the church- the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
We often forget that gates aren’t an offensive weapon. Too often as the church we live in fear, and so hear our Lord’s words as a promise that death and hell won’t overcome us. But gates are defensive weapons. Jesus declares that death and hell will not be able to withstand the onslaught of his redemption and reconciliation at work in and through the church.
The church’s DNA is to bring Jesus’ hope and healing power wherever the forces of death and hell seem to be winning the day. When we think about the poverty, injustice, racism, and other challenges facing our neighborhoods, it can be easy to overlook the churches in our communities on our way to supposedly bigger, better, and more powerful solutions. The power of death in our communities seems so large, and our churches seem so insignificant. But Jesus has made a unique promise to those gathered congregations that worship him week in and week out. He has promised us that nothing will be able to withstand his reconciling power at work in his church. After all, it’s his church, and he’s building it.
The Oaks Project is about supporting local churches in bringing that good news to low-income communities because the local church is at the heart of Jesus’ plan to renew our communities and our world. Find out how The Oaks Project can support your church in bringing good news to low-income communities, and together, let’s join Jesus in the work of making his blessings known “far as the curse is found.”
Visit The Oaks Project welcome page here.
Find out more about how The Oaks Project works here.