If your church disappeared tomorrow, would your local community even notice? Would it be missed? What vital, world-redeeming tasks would be left undone?
You might ask yourself the same haunting question: If you were to exit the drama of life stage right this very evening, what difference would it make? Think about this question for a moment, while I tell you about the life of one man who did make a difference because he changed the course of history.
If you are a Christian Post reader, or if you have seen the wonderful film Amazing Grace, then the name William Wilberforce is familiar to you. Few men have changed history as profoundly as this British statesman. His deep commitment to live out the Gospel led him to wage a monumental, 18-year campaign to end the British slave trade. This was at the end of the 18th century, when the British Parliament was virtually owned by slave-trading interests. It was David versus Goliath.
Yet this one man made a difference. If Wilberforce had never lived, Britain's slave trade might have gone on decades longer, at the cost of thousands upon thousands of lives.
But it was not just the slave trade that he impacted, as I wrote in my new book, The Faith. Had Wilberforce never lived, some 60 charities would not have been founded or aided by his efforts. Crucial prison reforms may never have occurred. You never would have heard of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The British and Foreign Bible Society would not have spread the Gospel. In short, had Wilberforce not lived, his community and humanity would be much poorer for it.
So back to you and your church: Are you simply minding your own business or just caring for the needs within the four walls of the church building? Or does your Christianity have legs and arms, as well as heart and mind? When Wilberforce first converted to Christ, his life-long friend William Pitt—the youngest Prime Minister in English history—reminded him, "Surely the principles as well as the practice of Christianity are simple and lead not to meditation only, but to action."
To follow Christ's teaching means to bring that teaching to life. It means that you and I need to be change-agents. That is why I want to encourage you to check out a new book, Be a Worldchanger: Live to Serve, authored by Pastor Walt Kallestad and Bob Beltz, who helped develop and produce Amazing Grace. In it you will read stories of world-changers past and present. You will see the connection between William Wilberforce's campaign against the slave trade and Jesus Christ's Sermon on the Mount.
A five-week small-group study, "Be a World Changer," is included in the book. And you will find film clips for the small-group study guide on the Amazing Grace DVD. The study culminates in helping to get you and your small group actively engaged in serving the needs of your community through a "Serve Day."
Visit BreakPoint.org to find out how you can get a hold of this book and other curriculum offered as part of the Be a World Changer movement. And oh yes, get a copy of the DVD, Amazing Grace, and show it to friends.
All of us would do well to take Pitt's words to Wilberforce to heart: not just to meditate on Christianity, but to live it out in the world—and to change the world in the process.
From BreakPoint®, April 17, 2008, Copyright 2008, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint®" and "Prison Fellowship Ministries®" are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship