And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
-- Matthew 16:18
Early followers of Jesus were called "Little Christs" because their new-found faith had changed their lives for all to see. This odd group of people from all walks of life--rich and poor, male and female and slave and free--were utterly different from the rest of society. They had somehow grown more caring and generous to both neighbors and strangers alike. And they willingly sacrificed their time and resources to ease sorrow and correct injustice.
In a word, they were transformed.
And that says a lot for the effectiveness of their leader, an obscure rabbi from a distant corner of the Roman Empire who just happened to be God's own Son. Few recognized it at the time. But because some did and followed Jesus, millions in future generations would help to change the world for the better.
Modern-day Christ-followers--known collectively as The Church--must too be leaders by imitating Jesus' actions and principles. It's this very strategy that His first disciples used to guide their own lives. They recognized that Jesus the Leader was also Jesus the Follower. Christ spoke constantly with His Father (God) in prayer and always sought His guidance. "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing," explained Jesus, "because whatever the Father does the Son also does."
What were some of the other attributes that made Jesus back then (and can make the Church today) an effective leader? In addition to inspiring His followers to leave their old ways behind for a higher calling, Jesus challenged the status quo. For instance, he defied the day's spiritual leaders by exposing their religious hypocrisy and revealing God's true intent behind the Scriptures. Jesus also encouraged His followers and empowered them to succeed in their objectives.
Let's not forget that He also acted with a sense of urgency. From the foundation of the world, Jesus knew that He had only about three years to save the world. It was in this brief period that He preached God's Word, healed the sick, raised the dead and forgave all those who asked Him. He even asked God to forgive His own executioners because they didn't realize what they were doing.
Jesus may have changed the world 2,000 years ago. But can His Church still make a difference in the 21st Century? It can if the past is any indication. For instance, it's because of the Church that the world has benefited from modern science, hospitals, universities, agriculture and law. The Church also led the call to abolish slavery. Today, Christ-followers are still to follow His admonition to be salt and light to a dying world in need of guidance, truth and character.
A skeptical world is watching. So let the Church show it a transforming love in action.