In a conversation Jesus had with several disciples in Matthew 16, he makes an amazing comment about the church. Jesus calls the Church “His Church” and gives her a promise of indestructibility. Jesus says,
“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18).
Fast forward to present day, and it is difficult to see this promise kept. With 80 percent of established churches in the United States either on a plateau or in decline, it appears that most churches in North America are in various places on a death spiral. In addition to the churches in plateau and decline, 3500 to 4000 churches die every year in the United States alone. Dr. Thom Rainer points out that as many as 90 percent of churches across America are showing symptoms of sickness with some close to dying. With local church experts giving grim statistics as stated above, it appears that the local church is dying across America. However, Matthew 16:18 tells us things are not what they appear to be.
Jesus made a bold amazing statement in Matthew 16:18 which forever holds true because of the confessional foundation on which the church is built, the fact that the promise is made to the church universal not local churches, and the defense against the tactics of Satan and death. Satan attacks the church in two ways from the inside and the outside. We are pressured to conform to external secular standards of gender identity, sexuality, and worldly ethics. It is difficult to bring a tank down from the outside, so I believe that Satan is most effective from the inside. He uses people to flood the church with false teaching from false prophets (Matthew 7:15; 7:16), false brothers who cause division in the body (Galatians 2:4), and authority hating wolves who seek only to ravage the church (Acts 20:29).
As I think about the local churches dying, I am reminded that we will lose some battles here, but we do win the war! As Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 6, we (the church) are constantly dying and yet we live on! We are regarded by the world as false and yet we are true! We should also be encouraged that surprisingly large and widespread impact comes from humble, small, and unexpected beginnings like the mustard seed in Matthew 13:31-33. The local church should be most encouraged by the fact that Jesus Christ holds the keys to the enemy’s house of death and destruction in Revelation 1:18. Satan’s house of death will always seek to overcome and destroy the house of God, but God always WINS! Yes, the Church Universal is Indestructible!