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. Moreover, the term, “church plant,” is problematic. It creates an image of something that is planted from seed, and grown from the ground by those who sow the seed. While this may be a great metaphor for sharing the Gospel, it’s not helpful as a working, 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, when compared with the traditional institution, are not any better equipped to fulfill the overarching vision Jesus had for his bride.
Here’s one reason why.
This kingdom of heaven that Jesus talked about doesn’t cater to the changing times. The kingdom of heaven transcends the times. When the body of Christ doesn’t recognize this truth, she becomes a slave to the latest organizational trends. Any kingdom model, built to ‘reflect the times,’ cannot transcend the times. So as exciting as recent trend-setting models may be, they will eventually become 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 eternity. Jesus claimed the organizational model of the 12 tribes of Israel. Whether the Mosaic encampment was mythological or literal, doesn’t matter. Jesus employed that age-old structure, to provide hungry people with personal empowerment. He demonstrated the model through a bread passing method. His method of distribution mirrored God’s heavenly provision during the encampment. In spite of tribal mumbling and grumbling, God’s provision, when equitably distributed, ensured social peace and justice during the tribal encampment. The model set a table of sustenance for life!
It was an egalitarian model that brought God’s Law together with God’s people, in order to meet human need in the encampment. Granted, the Israelites defaulted to hierarchical governance after the Exodus. But during the Exodus, an egalitarian model of representative leadership was recorded, and Jesus returned to that model to feed a hungry crowd. 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 resembled the appearance of a net. So Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a net.” 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 began to fish for people, as evidenced in Acts 1.
Nets are not planted in the earth, and they don’t grow from the soil. Nets are made by knotting people together on the ground. Then, the people are cast out over the spiritual waters of a small geographic area, such as a village, or a neighborhood. Nets are organizational castings that have a singular generic purpose: to provide hungry people with personal empowerment through Jesus’s bread passing method. This is the vision Jesus came to fulfill through a spirit of Love. It is a vision that builds a sustainable kingdom, because the net’s organizational structure transcends time.
It is up to us to turn to the words of Scripture, and study the details of this net-making vision. Everything has been made known within the biblical library. Let’s ask for eyes to see!