I'm thrilled to share with you from Ryan Romeo's wonderful book Outcry. Ryan is one of the co-founder's of OUTCRY Tour which has gathered more than 400,000 young Christians in some of the largest worship gatherings in American history which have taken place over the past several years. OUTCRY Tour has featured influential worship leaders such as Hillsong United, Passion Band, David Crowder, Kari Jobe & more. In all my reading, his book has a perspective and focus on the local church like I've never seen. I can't recommend it highly enough.
There is power and significance in the local church. We may not feel it. We may not see it or hear about it. But it is there.
The local church is the greatest movement the world has ever seen, and you and I are at the center of it.
It's easy to be discouraged about polls and opinions. It's easy to be swayed by the words around us into believing that the church is dying and irrelevant. But that perspective does not line up with God's reality.
There is significance and greatness in the church that doesn't come from numbers, or political influence, or cultural relevance. No amount of blog articles, podcasts or books can diminish the greatness of the local church because that greatness is bestowed to us straight from God. And it is irrevocable.
We were a couple months away from introducing the world to OUTCRY, and Shane & I were in California, working on our first promo video. We had been working on it for weeks. Trying to pour our heart and vision for the tour into a promo video less than two minutes long. It was not easy. And as we sat to review our first draft, we all realized the video wasn't right. The copy for the voiceover needed to be redone, and we were quickly running out of time. Not good. It was a responsibility that weighed on my shoulders, and I was feeling the pressure.
But as I went back to my hotel and began to write, I felt a surge of creativity and began to furiously type word after word. Suddenly I wrote a line that stopped me in my tracks. It was bold and so contrary to what I've been told that I knew it must be from God. It made me feel hesitant to write the words, but as I did it awakened a deep sense of excitement in me. As if I had written something that carried an ancient, hidden truth. Not based on what I experienced on the outside, but what I knew to be true on the inside.
She is not dying.
She is not in decline.
Her best days are ahead.
Something about that moment seemed prophetic to me.
As I wrote those words, I could hear the realist in me say: "Ryan, she is in decline! Haven't you read all of the stats about the exodus of people from the local church? Don't stick your head in the sand! You have to confront reality!"
But in that moment, I felt something shift in me. In my perspective.
I was not seeing the church through my own eyes. I began to see the church as Jesus sees her: loved, forgiven, diverse, messy yet beautiful.
And contrary to what we've been told, she is around to stay.
After this I began to feel more offended by the viral blog posts telling us of all the problems with the church and offering solutions. I began to feel like a man hearing rumors about his bride-to-be and knowing they weren't at all true. Like divine gossip about the bride of Jesus.
And I found myself thinking as I read these blogs, Be careful what you say about the bride of Christ! Don't you know that Jesus loves her? Don't you know He died for her?
I believe we need more reverence when we talk about her. When we criticize "the church," we need to remember that it is made up of billions of different people. The earth is filled with different organizations in different communities, and criticism is not one-size-fits-all. The church is Jesus' bride. When we talk about her we talk about him.
My wife, Blake, is incredible. She is amazingly supportive and loving - even in difficult seasons when I'm on the road. The thing about Blake is she has an amazing depth to her. She doesn't preach sermons or try to dump biblical wisdom on anyone who will listen. But she wakes up every morning at five (when I'm usually snoring) and reads the Bible and prays. Then when I think we are going to have a normal conversation, she amazes me with moments of godly depth and insight.
If you only had a cursory relationship with her, you may never experience that side of Blake. I do, because I know her and have walked through life with her since the seventh grade.
Now, let's say we are good friends but you hated my wife. Under these circumstances we could have a relationship, but it would be strained. We would continually tiptoe around her in our conversations. We would hold each other at arm's length and ultimately never have a healthy relationship. You and I would both know that you hated something very special to me, and that would cause an undeniable tension.
You can't love me but tell others blanket statements about her.
Gossip about her around town when you don't know the depths of her personality. You don't know her as I do. Ultimately, you can't love me and hate my wife.
You can't love Jesus and hate his bride - the Church.
Ryan Romeo is an artist, worship leader, writer and speaker. He has a deep passion for the church and all things creative. He currently works at his local church, Living Streams and is the cofounder of OUTCRY Tour. He lives in Phoenix, AZ with his wife Blake and their children Toby, Adyn & Mae.