I’ve been thinking about apostolic / missional leadership a lot over the past week, as you may have gathered, and this evening found myself grazing through “Church Planting” by Stuart Murray. In particular I was drawn to his critique of ascribing too much to church:
“Several church planting movements have given renewed attestation to the Gospels, usually because they suspected the older churches of marginalizing the radical teachings of Jesus contained in the Gospels … But not all church planting movements have been energized by their concern. They have searched the New Testament for guidance, but have concentrated on the Acts or the Epistles, rather than the Gospels. Church planting, consequently, has frequently been ecclesiocentric rather than Christocentric. The fact that there are only two recorded instances where Jesus spoke about the church has perhaps discouraged church planters from engaging in the search for Jesus’ view of the church, but has arguable resulted in distorted emphases and unexplored issues. In particular, it has allowed church planting to become detached from the central theme of Jesus’ teaching – the Kingdom of God.”
Do you find it surprising that Jesus said so little about churches? How might that effect our interpretation of the New Testament? Murray goes on to say:
“The fact that Jesus did not refer often to the church might in itself be significant. His emphasis on the Kingdom of God, as a divine initiative that, in mysterious ways, is at work to transform the created order, warns us against ascribing to the church any more than penultimate significance. The church is a sign, an instrument, an agent of the kingdom, but no more than this. Deeper engagement with the Gospels might help church planters avoid excessive interest in the church.”
Interesting warning eh? Church planters should not fixate on church if they wish to be true to the gospel. And the implications? Murray asserts:
Jesus’ teaching about wealth, violence and power are also of fundamental importance in church planting. Changing terminology, structures and styles of worship are of far less significance than creating communities where new patterns of economic sharing, peacemaking and servant leadership are developing, communities that are rooted in the teachings of Jesus and contextualized into diverse social contexts.
Ring any bells?