If the church in the West is to recover and rediscover its calling and identity it would help if we knew clearly the New Testament pattern and the marks that characterised the early church.
Over at Lausanne Church Planting Network they recently published an article on 5 truths for church planting today by David Miller and Ron Anderson. Their second point is that it’s crucial we have a New Testament understanding of church. They write:
Alan Hirsch cogently argues this conviction in his book, The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church. Hirsch believes we can do church in our day and age like the apostles did in the first century. He then offers five essential marks of biblical ecclesiology to help us recover the genius of the apostolic church:
1. Christ is the Center (God-focused).
2. Christ is continually being reproduced (disciple-making).
3. Christ manifests his love through the members (compassionate communion).
4. Christ works through every believer in the Body (universal priesthood).
5. Christ redeems the whole of creation through the church (outward mission).
It provides a helpful diagnostic when evaluating your church. Are we Christ centred but not making disciples? Are we compassionate but not Christ centred? Are we making disciples but not having an impact on our community? Are we having an impact but it’s through paid staff and the majority of the church is not involved?
The authors also use it as a diagnostic and interestingly in different regions of the world there are differing missing dynamics.
- In Central America (El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua), leaders feel strongly that the church’s most urgent challenge is to make disciples.
- Brazilians, on the other hand, consistently state that they must return Christ to the center of the church.
- In the Balkans, leaders confess that allowing every Christian to take his or her rightful place in the priesthood of believers is a huge need.
- Spanish leaders identify a lack of missional vision as their number one challenge.
So which aspects does your church need to rediscover?