A number of years ago, I had the privilege to speak in what I have been told is, the oldest Methodist Church in Europe, Gibraltar! It was planted by one of John Wesley's converts, a solider from England, around the 1770s – centuries ago.
It was very sobering to read the names on a wooden board inside the church building of the pastors, leaders, ministers and their wives. Some came and lived only a few months before sickness took them, some were there for many years! What an amazing history.
WHY is this so inspiring? Because for over 240 years a group of people has been faithfully ministering in that community. We are not talking about a one off crusade, concert or conference, which by the way are all valid, but they NEVER replace church. Week in & week out, year after year, decade after decade – come difficulties, problems, deaths, heartaches, celebrations, birthdays, and marriages, God's word and God's people have been able to continue to speak into that community, encourage and support one another, pray for one another in Gibraltar and beyond. This for me is another proof that Christianity works and His Church will absolutely prevail. The pastor and church have influence not only in the Christian community, but also to the governors and leaders of Gibraltar. Today it is still a healthy, vibrant, and caring, evangelistic Church.
I wonder if indeed John Wesley, let alone the people who began the church, had it in their mind the legacy they would leave nearly 2 and a half centuries later!! We are not talking about a large church either, but it certainly has a large influence! The power of the Church...Wow! I want to say it again, but with a twist, "church planting is the BEST long term continuous method of evangelism under God's Heaven..."
This really hits home for me, as I was brought up in the Methodist Church in NZ...and I first realized the call of God in my life there. I can still take you to the building & exact spot where this happened. Also I became a Christian in that church.
It's still true, as Bill Hybels so firmly states, "the church is the hope of the world..."