Focusing on Hope

Where do you turn when you are feeling hopeless?

There have been a number of times in my life when I felt hopeless. The first time I remember was when I was 12 and two of my sisters were killed in a car accident. My family and I were in New York, miles from home, when this tragedy struck. I was shocked and confused and didn’t know where to turn. It wasn’t until we returned home and went back to church that I started healing as friends and church members surrounded our family with love and support.

Over the years I’ve lost three other siblings and both parents—and some of those losses gave me a sense of hopelessness, angst, fear and even anger. Other members of my immediate family went through the same sense of grief, and I was doing my best to provide comfort to them. It was my church family that gave me comfort and support and helped me through those feelings of hopelessness. Recently I faced a rather intensive surgery. This time, right alongside my immediate family, my church family stepped up and helped provide just what I needed.

This is what a church family is for—to give hope to people by continually keeping the source of our hope—Jesus—the center of the center. All of us go through periods of feeling hopeless. It may be something we are going through on a personal level, a corporate level, or even a national level. I clearly remember the churches being crowded the weeks after the US was attacked on 9/11. People felt vulnerable and confused and they went to the one place they believed gave reasons for the hope that is in us. That place was the church; there many cried for comfort, encouragement, and to have their hope restored.

We refer to churches as places of worship. Who do we worship? The One who gives us hope—the hope of forgiveness, the hope of justification, the hope of being noticed, the hope of being included, the hope of something better than what we have right now. We also refer to churches as houses of prayer—where we seek relationship with Father, Son and Spirit, and with each other. Why do we seek that relationship? Because of hope. We hope that relationship provides answers to our deepest questions, provides peace that surpasses understanding, and provides love and acceptance.

In GCI, our emphasis is on healthy churches. Sadly, some churches don’t give a message of hope. You are hardly greeted when you come through the door. The music doesn’t lift or inspire because you’ve never even heard the songs. The sermon leaves you feeling a bit lost because you have no idea what it was about, or worse, you leave feeling guilty because the message made you feel you aren’t good enough. Little is said about Jesus, the offertory seems to be center stage, and the place clears out as soon as the service ends. This is not a church focused on hope.

Healthy GCI churches are hospitals for people looking for spiritual help. They are centers of hope where people can find relationship, understanding, compassion, and the truth of a God who loves you just the way you are. They are lights on a hill, illuminating paths to Jesus, where those without hope can find what they need most.

In a healthy church worship planning is intentional and always keeps guests in mind. Greeters (hosts) are looking to connect with visitors. Sermons are inspirational because they are focused on Jesus and the good news of the Gospel. Building relationship is central to a healthy church’s existence. In a healthy church hope is central and God is worshipped.

Diving deeper into the Hope Avenue (venue) will be one of two themes for Equipper in 2020. Our second theme is to bring focus and clarity to the GCI Worship Calendar, where we acknowledge, through worship, preaching, and living, that Jesus is the center of the center.

A healthy church is a church where hope is found. Let’s be healthy churches.

Rick Shallenberger

10 thoughts on “Focusing on Hope”

  1. Thank you Pastor The theme on hope is accurate for us here in Africa. We are facing more violence insecurity, poverty, wars, etc. Our only is our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Jean Mvondo
    Elder
    WCG/GCI, Yaoundé
    Cameroon

  2. Thank you Pastor Rick. Great way to begin the New Year, focusing on the “Hope” that does not disappoint. So glad to hear from you and that your health is getting better. Our congregation have had you in our prayers. Praise be to God, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
    Terry & Bette Lundberg

  3. Among other needs humans were created to have a sense of purpose, significance, esteem, identity, joy and security. The church, as the extended arm of our hope in Jesus, offers us just that. Thanks Rick for opening up your heart to us.

  4. Beautifully written and heartfelt! A church committed to hope in Jesus Christ through inspiring messages, uplifting song, and genuine fellowship builds solid loving relationships drawing closer to Him in all that we do and say! Love it, love it, love it!

    Thank you Pastor,
    Robin Grant

  5. Thank you Pastor for the words of hope, with so much turmoil in the world today, we need to go in the new year with Gods words of acceptance and encouragement and hope for a brighter tomorrow. I claim it in Jesus name.

  6. Thank you pastor Rick for reminding us of the importance “hope.” Key-Jesus is the center, the core of our hope. In that it allows the church to act on that hope. As you’ve written: inspiring songs & sermons, sharing love, uplifting one another, and building healthy relationships are some ways of living that hope. To God be the Glory for the great things He has done and doing through his followers. Oh how blessed we are!!!

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