I include here part of a sheet I gave out to help fuel our discussion which is a quote from a report produced by a working party in the Church of England back in 2004 entitled, 'mission-shaped church ... church planting and fresh expressions of church in a changing context' along with some of my own comments as to points I believe of particular significance to us flowing from this;
Lambeth 1988 Resolution 44:
“This conference calls for a shift to a dynamic missionary emphasis, going beyond care and nurture to proclamation and service; and therefore accepts the challenge this presents to diocesan and local church structures and patterns of worship and ministry, and looks to God for a fresh movement of the Spirit; in prayer, outgoing love and evangelism in obedience to our Lord's command.”
- this dynamic missionary emphasis is a great challenge to us who have been part of a church structure and model that was more relevant to 'Christendom' rather than the mission field in which we now operate even here in North America. The importance of prayer cannot be over emphasized. Are we 'devoted to prayer' like we read of the early church in the book of Acts?
§ a missionary church is focused on God the Trinity
Worship lies at the heart of a missionary church, and to love and know God as Father, Son and Spirit is its chief inspiration and primary purpose. It worships and serves a missionary God, and understands itself to share in the divine mission. All of its life and activity is undergirded by prayer.- again we see the priority of prayer, but this is simply a reflection of the truth that everything we are and do flows from our focus upon and relationship to God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We are to join in God's mission which is already taking place in the world. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism - which means that there is only one Church also - how do we better give expression to this spiritual reality in our 'communities'? When we over-emphasize denominations and even doctrine (i.e. our interpretation), we become divisive. "Is Christ divided?"
§ a missionary church is Incarnatlonal
A missionary church seeks to shape itself in relation to the culture in which it is located or to which it is called. Whenever it is called to be cross-cultural then its long-term members or initial team lay aside their cultural preferences about church to allow the emergence of a form or style of church to be shaped by those they are seeking to reach. If a church is long established, then it evaluates itself in relation to the culture of the community it serves, and strips away whatever is not required by the gospel. An incarnational church seeks to be responsive to the activity of the Spirit in its community.
- Paul became all things to all people that might win some. Similarly we must lay aside our own preferences to allow the emergence of new forms of being the people of God that help us connect and engage with people who do not know Jesus. This is not to change the message of the gospel but it is to become a people who are more engaged with those people around them (or at least some of them), praying and looking for opportunities to demonstrate and proclaim the kingdom of heaven. "The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us"
§ a missionary church Is transformational
A missionary church exists for the transformation of the community that it serves, through the power of the gospel and the Holy Spirit. It is not self-serving, self-seeking or self-focused. The
- we exist to seek the transformation of communities with which we are involved - nothing less, for the glory of God. "Let your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven". The heart of this transformation is the renewing work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a person who has come to trust in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. This is the measure of how we are doing as a faith community.
§ a missionary church makes disciples
A missionary church is active in calling people to faith in Jesus Christ, and it is equally committed to the development of a consistent Christian lifestyle appropriate to, but not withdrawn from, the culture or cultures in which it operates. It engages with culture, but also presents a counter-cultural challenge by its corporate life based on the world view and values of the gospel. It encourages the gifting and vocation of all the people of God, and invests in the development of leaders. It is concerned for the transformation of individuals, as well as the transformation of communities.
- this begins with the understanding that the role of leadership (be it ordained or otherwise), is not to be "The Minister", but rather to equip and release the ministry of everyone else in the body. This must continue to be a fundamental practice and conviction of each one of us, demonstrated when we come together as believers, but also as we live our lives as employees, moms, fathers, bosses, friends, etc. Christianity is a way of life and maturity is evidenced by obedience to Jesus. We must move away from seeing maturity as increased knowledge about the Bible and God. We are to be doers of the word who lead others into the same lifestyle based upon close relationships and love.
§ a missionary church is relational
In a missionary church, a community of faith is being formed. It is characterized by welcome and hospitality. Its ethos and style are open to change when new members join. Believers are encouraged to establish interdependent relationships with fellow Christians as they grow into Christ. As a community it is aware that it is incomplete without interdependent relationships with other Christian churches and communities. It does not seek to stand alone.
- it is a most holy thing to eat together around a meal table and affirm the Christ in each other. Each of us needs to be part of a small intimate group of believers (family), but I would also say we need to also be investing in a few key, intimate relationships as a basis for edification, encouragement and comfort. This is why we keep promoting the Life Transformation Partnerships of 2/3 people.