It was my turn, well actually I volunteered, to share something at the minister's fellowship. Not wanting to be controversial, I thought I'd raise a question about the church. Here's what I talked about.
To get us thinking I want to make a suggestion about the church. First I ought to let you know that I believe that it's time for the church to change. I'm not altogether sure what that change will ultimately look like but I know that somehow we need to find a way to realign the church with the mission of God. It probably requires fresh vision and a new imagination.
It will require us to move from programmes as the solution to things and towards lifestyle choices and patterns as the alternatives. It is, at its heart the debate about what it means to be missional.
One quote that constantly comes to mind is something Rowan Williams said: It is not that the Church of God has a mission, it is that the God of mission has a church.
Within that discussion, the discussion about programmes, core values, and priorities that spring from a changing perspective of the nature and purpose of the church, I'd like to introduce a question.
My proposition today focuses on something Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord
One simple question. Have we built the church on the wrong foundation?
What is not at issue here is the cornerstone role of Jesus. This remains the bedrock on which we build. The issue is the first layer of bricks! Paul speaks of the apostles and prophets. Our model tends towards the pastors and teachers. Where does that lead us? Maintenance and isolation. Apostles and prophets push at the boundaries, pastors and teachers preserve and purify. This isn't about devaluing the role of pastors and teachers, or indeed to ignore the contribution that evangelists make. The question is simply one of the basis on which we build church.
My proposition is that the progress of the early church came through the apostolic ministry and not the pastoral ministry. We could, and should discuss the nature of apostolic ministry in today's church. But if we do, let's not modify it to fit our theology or more importantly perhaps our lack of experience of some aspects of a New Testament perspective of an apostle. In other words, let's not turn and apostle of the first century into a CEO of the twenty first century!
I guess my fundamental question has more to do with how we recapture the pioneering, church planting, life transforming, gospel culture that seems to have been lost to the church as a result of focussing upon our teaching and internal care as the foundations for our fellowship and not the grand mission of God.
And that's where I stopped and we talked. I'm not sure we came up with any answers, but there is an underlying sense amongst all of us that there is something fundamentally broken about the way we do church. It simply isn't working as it should for the glory of God and the purposes of the kingdom.
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