Saturday, June 17

Church as a movement, rather than an institution

Probably THE most difficult paradigm shift for me personally over the past seven or so years has been to understand the church as a movement, rather than an institution.

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.


El Perro said...

Amen! La iglesia es la estrategia de Dios para alcanzar al mundo!

El Perro said...

P.D. he colocado un link entre de este edificante e instructivo blog desde hace un par de semanas entre mis sitios favoritos (basureros que frecuento, je! no es por ofender es por armonizar con el concepto del perro callejero) ¡Que el Señor Bendiga tu ministerio!

GuyMuse said...

Hno. "el perro",

Gracias por incluirme entre los "basureros" que frecuentas! Estoy de acuerdo que la iglesia es la estrategia de Dios para alcanzar al mundo; pero la iglesia no ha entendido que tiene que estar en misión con Dios y entenderse como una iglesia reproductora, y no una institución que se contenta en mantener su "estilo de vida" entre las cuatro paredes.

Bendiciones, y sigas frecuentando a mi basurero para ver que migajas hay de dia en dia!

jpu said...

good refresher Guy. thanks for that.
God is good

Ken Sorrell said...


As always, another great and thought provoking post. One of the changes that has taken place in my thinking since arriving on the mission field has been an heightened sense of awareness of the impact of a culture on the expression of church. It is truly difficult to recognize this when you are in the middle of the church that is in the middle of your own culture. Church positions and practices that I proof-texted as biblical prior to our missions experience now seem silly and rather embarrassing. So much of how we view church has been shaped by our cultural experiences and not necessarily Scripture.

If you go back and read the early writings are Arn, Winter, McGavern, Towns, and others you will definitely see the expectation of churches planting churches and expanding as part of the total church growth package. I've often wondered when and how this element was dropped from the process. I've heard stories but have not be able to validate any them as actually being true. Nevertheless, you are right on that the church should always be reaching out and expanding. When was the last time you heard church staff and pastors at a meeting arguing about who has started the most new works?

If we are not careful we will indeed lose the essence of what it means to be a New Testament church. It never was about buildings, large staffs, or even how much we give to CP. It's about not letting anything stop us from being Acts 1:8 churches.

Ross Garner said...

Amen. Thanks for yet another stimulating blog.

Our ancestors in the faith were a pilgrim people before they built their temple.

GuyMuse said...


Thanks for the thoughtful comment. The longer I am on the field, the wider the chasm seems between the cultural USA expression of church and what the NT actually teaches or implies. I am far from saying we have it all figured out--we don't, but I am also convinced the Western institutional church needs to get back to the NT and discover afresh what the first-century church looked like.


You are right, if we are true to our calling, we are more pilgrims and sojourners that we are settled people behind the four walls of a building.

Anonymous said...

I received an article in my email box today that I hoped someone could take the time to comment on. How does the church growth movement differ from the current trends of "church growth"?


Link to article:

Anonymous said...

Oops! I meant to ask about the difference between the church PLANTING movement and the current church growth trends [embraced in the U.S.]. I see such negatives about what I see here in the states; in contrast, what I have read about CPMs sounds good. Just looking for someone else's perspective.


GuyMuse said...


Church PLANTING movement is about multiplication: churches planting churches that plant churches...

Church growth is more about ways to grow individual churches by adding numbers to existing churches.

My own take on the matter is that the only way we will ever fulfill the Great Commission is by multiplication methodologies. There is simply too much ground to cover to ever expect our "growth" methodologies to keep up with the population growth.

Just my 2-cents. There are plenty of others who would be much better at answering your questions.