Recently I was challenged by the words of an Ethiopian pastor who leads an incredible church in Addis Ababa. He told me, “God has created two institutions for the transformation of society; the church, and the family.”

Wow! There’s a revelation for us to ponder on. I’ve been brought up the last 10 years on a strong diet of Bill Hybels, and his statement that “the local church is the hope of the world.” So that wasn’t a new thought to me. But God also created the family as an institution. How easy it is to not pay attention to that means for the transformation of society.

So here is a warning and some strong guidance for all of us. Are we working through those institutions, or are we seeking to bypass them, and create our own new ones?

This is especially relevant for para-church organisations, of which we constantly see new ones sprouting up. There is a place for the para-church, provided it’s in resourcing the local church. Sadly, too many para-church organisations actually steal resources (people, money, energy) away from the local church, instead of resourcing the local church.

So what’s your vision? What’s God placed on your heart? If it includes the transformation of society, are you trying to strengthen the family or the church? Or are you seeking to bypass them with something you’ve created yourself?

Mark Williamson is a founding director of One Rock International. He’s a lay preacher and leader within the Methodist Church, author of a biography on John Wesley, and is currently researching for a biography on William Wilberforce. He enjoys good films, good food, praying for London, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna.