If you’re like me (and let’s hope you’re not), you might find that sometimes you say things without giving thoughtful consideration to what you’re saying. As I have sought to communicate the vision for developing disciples in the context of community, I have said more than one time, “This is not about planting a church.” Now having heard myself repeat that phrase several times I want to seek to clarify, which is something I find myself undertaking quite too often.
The phrase “missional community” was coined back in the 80’s to articulate what was believed to be a more authentic expression of a Christian community of faith rather than the institutional model which is most prevalently recognized in the Western world. Simply put, when the pioneers of missional communities looked at the modern church, in their biblically informed opinions, it did not resemble the church of 2000 years ago. Now, I know what you’re thinking, much has changed in 2000 years. However, what has not changed is how and why God gathers and sends His people.
The church is a family. It is the family of God. God is our Father. This is not an accidental distinction. God is continuing to this day the work He begin in the garden with our original parents. He is building a family through adoption made possible by the sinless life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Sadly, we have reduced Christianity to a “decision” which we make in order to secure a spot in heaven when we die. You and I must redeem a biblical understanding of what it means to be part of the family of God TODAY!! Sure, the thought of eternity in a renewed heaven and earth is glorious but what about today? “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called the children of God and such WE ARE” (1 John 3:1). John does not say, “we will be.” He says we are presently, children of God and members of His family. But what does it look like to live in our present culture and context as part of the family? Here in lies the problem. It’s difficult to look at what the church has become and see a healthy reflection of what God’s family is. I believe that needs to change and the only way that we can recapture a biblical model of church is by immersing ourselves in the scriptures.
God invites his children to join in the family mission of enlarging the family (or another picture …expanding the borders of the kingdom) and being the instruments through which other children are brought into the clan. We accomplish this mission through discipleship but all the while the mission is carried out as a family which always seeks to honor our Father. This family is called the church. The Father ordained the church. The Son lived and died for the church. The Spirit fills, convicts, protects and empowers the church. And we should love the church as well. In my repeated comments about “this not being about church planting” I have attempted to emphasis the priority of discipleship and community. The order is essential. Discipleship comes first. This must be our focus. I desire and believe God desires to birth New City Church in Anderson and NCC will worship, teach, fellowship, pray, baptize and share communion as a body as we participate in our Father’s mission. This is the church! But I believe this happens as a RESULT of discipleship, which is what we were called to do by Christ in Matthew 28:19. Discipleship is a community endeavor and the seeds of discipleship which are planted in community will produce new children and churches all over the world beginning with us.
We are praying that God births a healthy church (family) which we all are a part of. But we plead with God that by his grace, New City Church becomes and continues to be a healthy reflection of his eternal family and not a man centered institution which lacks power and has no impact in our world.