Continuing the series going through the book, Total Church, by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis.
Chapter 5 of Total church talks about church planting. Chester and Timmis claim that at the centre of the apostolic vision of mission was church planting – this is what Paul and his companions were doing all throughout the New Testament. The church is the agent of mission and as such, church planting is the primary form of mission.
Of course, by church, Chester and Timmis are not talking about the church as an institution of as the universal church. They are talking about the church as a loving and close knit family – as the early church congregations were. The early churches met in households, running a church was compared to running a family. Once this family of the church had outgrown the size of the household that they could meet in, they split into two smaller congregations. (Timmis and Chester giver references for this from Acts).
Local church congregations therefore are to look out and care for each other, to have the gospel at the centre, and are deeply integrated in their local community. Mission and evangelism, then, are part of the DNA of the church as they care for each other and for the community.
Why doesn’t this happen in most churches today? Total church claims there are a number of factors. One is that the church slips into ‘maintenance mode’. As a church gets bigger it starts providing programs and courses and so on, all of these create jobs that need to be filled in the church. The focus of the church then becomes keeping these programs going, rather than reaching out in new ways to the local community.
I guess the main focus of the chapter is simple: that the mission of God involves engaging with the surrounding community and planting communities (church groups) where God’s grace can be lived out and witnessed in the community. Quite simple really.