The past 30 years have provided a slew of new ideas regarding the way Christians ‘do’ church. The best thing about these fresh entrepreneurial efforts is that they have successfully broken a mold that needed to be broken. But more recently people have begun to question the sustainability of the newer church planting models.
The term, “church plant,” is problematic. It creates an image of something that is planted from seed and grown from the ground by church planters—sowers of seed. And while this may be a great metaphor for sharing good news, it’s not helpful as an organizational image. Missional or not, church plants continue to model the traditional idea of attracting people to a person, a place, or a particular mission. These models are not any better equipped to fulfill the over-arching organizational vision Jesus had for his bride, than was or is the institutional model.
Here’s why. This kingdom of heaven that Jesus talked doesn’t cater to the changing times. The kingdom of heaven transcends time. When the church doesn’t recognize this truth, she becomes a slave to the human clock—the temporal master of the human spirit. The institutional model has been a slave to the clock for 2,000 years. But we must realize that the newly created models are also a product of our changing times. Any kingdom model, built to reflect the ‘times,’ cannot transcend time. So as exciting as recent trend-setting models may be, they will eventually become traditional molds that need to be broken by future generations.
Bottom line. We still aren’t where we need to be in our thinking.
The church that Jesus claimed during his earthly ministry was a one-size-fits-all organizational model—for all time. Jesus claimed the organizational model of the 12 tribes of Israel. And whether the Mosaic encampment is mythological or literal, doesn’t matter. Jesus employed that age-old structure to teach people personal empowerment through an unencumbered relationship with God’s Law—an eternal lesson for all times. Jesus demonstrated the power of such an organization during the miracle feedings of the 5,000 and 4,000,
Furthermore, he knew that the original organization of tribes looked like a net. So Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a net.” And he called fishermen into his inner circle because they were the ones who had net-making skills! But instead of capturing fish, Jesus re-purposed their skills by teaching them how to make a different type of net—of people, by people, and for people! A net that would feed multitudes! Eventually, the disciples caught on to the re-purposing of their net-making skills and they fished for people who were willing to help them make nets!
Nets are not planted on the ground and they don’t grow from the ground. They are tied on the ground and then lifted up and cast outward over the spiritual waters of an entire geographic area—villages, towns, cities, regions, etc. Nets are spiritual coverings that have a singular generic purpose: to teach personal empowerment through a right spirit with God’s Law for the good of society. This is the vision Jesus came to fulfill through a spirit of Love. It is a vision that builds a sustainable kingdom because it transcends time.
Thoughts along the way,
Carol Wimmer is the author of the acclaimed poem When I say I am a Christian, and three books entitled: The Net—An Organizational Vision for the Church of Tomorrow; The Clock—A Timekeeping Tool for the Church of Tomorrow; and The Key—A Spiritual Language for the Church of Tomorrow