The end purpose of church is not to leave established an institution complete with buildings, staff, and ministry programs. Rather, church is part of an
...ongoing process, not an end in itself...strategic parts of an organic rhythm of witness...Some might exist for only a season, others might stay as an entity for generations, BUT THE GOAL WILL BE TO REPRODUCE, NOT JUST TO SUSTAIN ITSELF...[Churches exist to] send-gather-disciple-reproduce [and then repeat the process.]
The days when churches would build monolithic church buildings and proudly proclaim that they've been here since 1861 (or whenever) are ending...thinking about church as a movement, rather than as an institution, will require a complete paradigm shift for current church leaders. ["The Shaping of Things to Come" by Hirsch and Frost, pg.67]
This shift in thinking is what will propel us to finish the Great Commission task in THIS generation. As my previous post illustrates, God is moving in today's world in unprecedented fashion to redeem the world back unto Himself. What is hindering is not so much that we do not have the needed personnel or resources; rather, what is lacking is a true understanding of what the church was intended to be. The church must become a missionary movement. We need to get away from the idea of church as somewhere we "go" and get back to the NT concept of "being" the church in today's world.
The idea goes something like this...
- existing churches train/commission all their people to go out and be on mission with God in today's world
- those "sent ones" evangelize and gather new believers for discipleship
- the new disciples are established into indigenous churches, leadership arises within the new church as the new believers begin to discover their spiritual gifts
- this new indigenous church trains/commissions their people to go out and be on mission with God in today's world
- the process is repeated over and over to the ends of the earth
The church is always on the move, not settling in, but always reaching out and expanding. Does it really work this way? Therein lies the rub. For most of us, church is still an understanding of a place-program, somewhere we go. We have not really made the paradigm shift necessary to get us out of our comfort zones and out into the world. We really need to get away from an institutional understanding of church and move into an organic-missional-incarnational view of church.