mission shaped church
the covenant challenge to the Church
The covenant with Abraham focused God's purpose for humanity in the
future of one family. They were to multiply to be as numerous `as the stars
of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore'.
But this community
did not exist for itself. Through them `all the families of the earth' would be
John 8 and Galatians 3 see Jesus' followers as the true children
of Abraham, in fulfilment of the Genesis promises.
The church is the pilgrim people of God. It is on the move, hastening
to the ends of the earth to beseech all men to be reconciled to God,
and hastening to the end of time to meet its Lord who will gather all
into one. Therefore the nature of the church is never to be defined in
static terms, but only in terms of that to which it is going. It cannot be
understood rightly except in a perspective which is at once missionary
From the Patriarchs until the conquest of the Promised Land, the Old
Testament people of God are seen as a pilgrim people, a people continually
on the move, with a tent as the focus of the divine presence. Once settled
in the land, their understanding of God's presence becomes focused on a
fixed location, the Temple. After the destruction of the first Temple, there
follows a time of exile. Life in post Christendom has many dimensions of
While Christ is the fulfilment of both tent and temple, perhaps the
tent imagery is more appropriate for our time.
Jesus, the Church and the kingdom
The church is a sign and disclosure of the kingdom of God. The kingdom
has certain clear qualities its breaking of social boundaries, its hope for
the poor, its message of God's welcome for all, focused in Christ. But it is
also presented as something that grows. In particular, a good number of
the parables of the kingdom concern reproductive growth. In John 15 Jesus
and his disciples fulfil the Old Testament picture of the people of God as a
Vine. The purpose of remaining in Christ is to bear fruit to the Father's glory.
A tree bears fruit to reproduce itself. So it is with Christ and the Church.
the story of the young Church Acts and Epistles
The story of Acts is not simply a general one of mission, but a more specific
one of church reproduction or the planting process. After Antioch (Acts 13)
`church planting' becomes an evident pattern the starting of new
communities, containing both Jews and Gentiles. That came through the