theology for a missionary church
Spirit's vision given to Peter (Acts 10) and the missionary call of Paul
(Acts 9). But the vision for reproduction was written into both the Great
Commission in Matthew 28
and the Lukan purpose of the Spirit (Acts
Both presuppose that the Church is to be reproduced, by disciples
from and in as many ethnic groups as there are in the world.
In Romans 15.23 Paul explains why he is moving on. He says there is
`no further place for me in these regions' and (vv. 18f) `by word and deed,
by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God . . .
I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ'.
What, exactly, has Paul done? Certainly not converted all the
populations of those regions. Certainly not solved their social and
economic problems. He has in his own words `fully preached the
gospel' and left behind communities of men and women who believe
the gospel and live by it.
Church planting is at the heart of the Pauline mission.
Ephesians 4 lists Christ given ministries: apostles, prophets, evangelists,
pastors/teachers. Although the term has wider meaning, apostles plant
churches. Planting establishes the community from which further apostolic,
prophetic and evangelistic ministry proceeds and which, through pastoring
and teaching, grows to maturity in Christ.
The story of the young Church, and the dynamics by which it came to birth,
bear witness to a Church born to reproduce; not just planting churches but
with an ecclesiological instinct for furthering God's mission.
the ultimate destiny of the Church
To see the Church as the `reproducing community' helps it to realize that
its task, in each generation, is necessarily incomplete. Only in heaven will
mission and planting cease. Growth, by reproduction, will be vital to fill the
The Church is also called to be a foretaste of the coming kingdom. It is
more an imperfect anticipation of God's future world than a preservation
of earlier cultural forms.
The church does more than merely point to a reality beyond itself.
By virtue of its participation in the life of God, it is not only a sign and
instrument, but also a genuine foretaste of God's Kingdom, called to
show forth visibly, in the midst of history, God's final purposes for