I read a quote this morning that popped up in my RSS feed:
his [Jesus] disciples were to establish beachheads of his Person, word, and power in the midst of a failing and futile humanity. They were to bring the presence of the kingdom and its King into every corner of human life by fully living in the kingdom with him.
This comes from Dallas Willard and it is part of a longer quote. (You can read the whole quote here.) In the original blog post the question asked is a simple one: Is this just about semantics? To which my response is mostly no it's not, it's deeper than that. As you know, I'm concerned about the way we do church, the way we've turned church into an institution based largely around gathering a suitably sized group of likeminded individuals together on a week-by-week basis to sing songs and learn three things they already know about a text with which they are often over familiar but with which they are under engaged.
Okay, that's overstating it a bit, but you get my point. Church has become a refuge for the insider more than for the outsider. You have to know the language, know the songs, know the form and fit in on order to access what we do. At some point every institution or even group or tribe has it's now language and practices. In order to be part of that group you have to learn these things. So it's not just about clearing away those elements, as if building something without those limits will magically work a different outcome.
So why the problem with church planting? Well I guess it's because when you say you're setting off into the unknown then you need a label so people can identify with what you're doing and church planting seems to be the label that most closely fits what we are about to do. But on the other hand it doesn't fit at all because everyone seems to know what church planting is, and it doesn't look like the thing that I see happening! Yes, Im;' awkward and different and all those things, but the point is that I'm not that interested in filling the local village hall with a group of already believers who have become disenchanted with their current experience of local church life.
Perhaps I can't avoid the label, perhaps it's not important to avoid the label, perhaps it doesn't matter what it's called as long as God is honoured. I'm sure though that when some Christians get to hear about it they will make their own assumptions about what we should be doing. I just hope we are open enough to listen and strong enough to resist and wise enough to do both at the right time!