It’s hard to go a day without reading about scandal, malfeasance, or incompetence in institutions we love. And the way today’s news comes at us in torrents of information, story after story, tweet after tweet, page after page, it can be enough to make us discouraged.
These stories need to be told. Sin must be uncovered. Truth is the only way. And yet, if we are not careful, we might convince ourselves that this is the whole story about what God is doing in the world through his people. You might get the impression that the work of the Holy Spirit in the world to lead men and women to a saving faith in Jesus Christ are a nostalgic figment of yesteryear. You might even believe that there are no good churches, few good leaders, and not many genuine followers of Jesus.
But you’d be wrong.
First, we must recognize that God is at work in every age. He is not absent. He is not wringing his hands over the state of the church. He is not fretting about who the next great leader will be. This doesn’t mean we should be complacent or turn our eyes away from sin and corruption in the church or that we should not move toward compassion toward the vulnerable who are victims of abuses of power. We should, however, refuse to not see that there are still places where God is at work in powerful ways around the world through the ordinary faithfulness of God’s people.
The medical missionary leaving behind a lucrative career to spend her life among the poor in a developing country. The faithful pastor in a rural community who will never receive a book contract and whose name will never appear on a byline. The teacher who helps a child with severe learning disabilities get through school and get into college.
These kinds of faithful efforts don’t make for good copy and will never adorn the top of a newspaper. And yet, there are more Christians living out the gospel in this way than there are who exploit Christianity for their own ends. There can be a temptation to see only the good and turn a blind eye toward the bad, but there can be an equally powerful pull to only see the bad and never see the good.
Ultimately, the story of God’s work in the world through His Church will always be a somewhat messy story, one marked by both pockets of hope and images of despair. You will see the Spirit work in miraculous and marvelous ways to change lives, and you will see the ugly underbelly of human depravity. But disciples of Jesus should not despair. The story isn’t only what we read in the headlines, but in countless acts of faithful obedience, not captured by journalists or recorded on cameras or posted on social media. The story is that God is gathering a people for himself, he is working history toward his ends, and he is making all things new.
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
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Daniel Darling is the Director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement. He previously served as the Senior VP for Communications at National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) and VP of Communications for the ERLC. You can find more from Dan at DanielDarling.com.