Tag Archives: The local church is the hope of the world

Live from El Salvador with Compassion

imageWe’ve been sponsoring a boy named Daniel in Mexico with Compassion for many years. We exchange letters (not nearly enough come from the Knowltons), but still Daniel’s life has always had an air of mystery to me.

But not so much after this week, not because we made it to Mexico, but because we are here in El Salvador seeing Compassion’s ministry up close and personal. Two months ago Compassion invited us on a trip here to see their ministry first hand, and we delightfully accepted.

We have been having a wonderful time, getting to know some terrific people all while seeing a ministry that is doing an incredible work “releasing children from poverty.” A number of Compassion staff are along for the tour, as well as 7 pastors, some of whom brought their sweeties (Yay, Diane!). Also along for the trip is the comedian Jeff Foxworthy and his wife and daughter. They have made a number of Compassion trips.

Compassion-sponsored child Naomi shows Diane one of her sponsor's letters...

Compassion child Naomi shows off her sponsor letter

To begin with…

Suffice it to say that Compassion…works. Quite well. Unwed mothers come to Christ (about 65% who enter the Child Survival Program come to know the Lord) and receive resources to holistically care for their children. Children come to Christ and often their families are also impacted by the gospel. (One group met a mother and father today who came to Christ when both showed up at the church/project to see their son baptized) Compassion isn’t perfect, but by the grace of God their strategy works well.

Why Compassion Works…

Delightful lunch with Compassion Child Gerson

Delightful lunch with Compassion Child Gerson

Of course I am simplifying, and obviously I’m no expert after two days of touring, but if pressed to name one great reason, I think it works because it is all based on the Gospel working through the LOCAL CHURCH. I knew the gospel was significant, but the overwhelming importance of the local church in Compassion’s ministry was new to me. And this fact alone made me love their ministry. As one staff member put it, “It has always been our intention to attend to the bride of Christ.” Jeff Foxworthy said, “The star of the whole thing is the church.” So what we visited over the last two days…were two different Compassion projects, or really, two different churches. Someone noted something I hadn’t realized, but it was definitely true: “It doesn’t say COMPASSION in giant letters when you go to the project.”

It’s a church, and therefore each touring day we have met the church staff, and the Compassion staff (which includes an accountant at every single project – they have won awards for their excellence in financial accountability, and approximately 80% of all donated monies go directly to helping the child). Staff member Mark Pellingra related a story of a visit he once made to a Compassion child’s home. He asked the parents about how they felt about Compassion’s impact on their child. They responded, “What is Compassion?” They knew about the sponsor…and the church, but not the organization behind it.

The Ultimate Aim

Compassion actually hopes to put themselves out of business, and it’s not just a pipe dream – it is beginning to happen in certain countries like Uganda and Ecuador. Compassion children grow up, become gainfully employed and serving in the local church from whence they came; and over time, with their understanding of sustainable ministry, they themselves take over sponsoring their neighbors, other local children. Sponsors therefore from the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. become unnecessary…to the glory of God!

Today’s fun 

You know you're...on a Compassion trip...

You know you’re…on a Compassion trip…

After four long hours on a bus today (two hours into the mountains and back – we passed time sharing personal testimonies), we came back to the very nice Real Intercontinental hotel, where, after a great meal, Mr. Foxworthy did stand-up for 17 of us, which he said made him more nervous than a crowd of 5,000. And yet he was hilarious, a real treat. Then we shared our impressions of our two days so far, what we have learned. More blessing. I’ll look forward to telling more stories when I return to Edgewood on the weekend after Labor Day.

The El Salvador Compassion trip team

The El Salvador Compassion trip team

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Posted by on September 1, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Why We Can’t Do Without the Local Church

Many years ago, a dear college friend of mine went off to be a missionary in Japan, a country where the majority of the people had hearts of stone. While Japan is not a closed country, the gospel has made very little progress over the centuries; my friend labored in this hard land for the better part of two decades.

He came to Waupun for a visit about 10 years ago, and over lunch and a long talk, I discovered he had made a significant theological change since our days at the University of Illinois: he had abandoned the local church. Not Jesus, mind you, just His bride.

This was quite a change for him. In college, he was a churchman of the highest order – faithful in his attendance, teaching Sunday school, encouraging others to come. Not so anymore. Now, he had come to think of the church as a hindrance. But you had to hand it to him, he was consistent. When I asked him about baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the ordinances of the church, he thought these were unimportant. And in a case of extremely poor exegesis, he had determined that baptism in Matthew 28:19 (“Go and make disciples, baptizing them…”) was “Spirit” baptism, not water baptism (though it was certainly very hard to understand how Jesus could command his disciples to “Spirit”-baptize people).

Though he would claim otherwise, my friend had come to his theology by experience, not Scripture. You see, group identity in Japan is an incredibly powerful force, something we can’t even understand here. For instance, because children in the country identify so strongly with their schoolmates, a child moved from the school where she started attending in say, kindergarten, will almost never be accepted in new schools. Therefore, a Japanese man transferred within his company to another city often doesn’t move his family. He just sets up an apartment by himself in the new city. (I’m in danger here of telling you more than I know about Japanese culture, but this is my understanding). This strong group identity cuts both ways, and as a result, when doing evangelism, missionaries and Japanese Christians face an uphill task when seeking to bring people together in new groups (in this case, the church).

My friend has a bit of a problem however – the Word of God, which everywhere assumes that if someone is a Christian, he will be a part of the local church. And not just that, the Bible says that the church is actually the protector of the glorious gospel message…

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:14-15 (ESV)

Here Paul is clearly writing to his protégé Timothy about the local church, not the “universal church” as he speaks about how someone ought to “behave” in this “assembly” (what the word “church” actually means in Greek). But notice what else he says about the local church – it is the “pillar and buttress of the truth.” This is powerful, and indicates that while there are other important Christian organizations (i.e. parachurch ministries like Focus on the Family, Cru, Inter-Varsity, etc.) it is the local church which is the protector and vanguard of the Gospel. And the Gospel, of course, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is at the very heart of Scripture…and thus, our faith. There is therefore good reason that Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in the Chicagoland area, has famously said,

“The local church is the hope of the world.”

Amen, and amen.

I’ve lost touch with my friend over the years. He had some health issues, and I think might have been moving back to the states. But I hope he has reconsidered his thinking through the years. He always had a deep love for the Lord Jesus, and so I hope he has reconsidered his waning affection for the bride of Christ.

For Monday, August 31st: 1 Timothy 4



Posted by on August 28, 2015 in Uncategorized


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