A culture of multiplication
Posted on November 5, 2018 by VMMissions Staff
By Lynn Suter
I well remember the church building where my family worshipped when I was a child. Our pastor’s wife occasionally babysat my sister and me in their adjoining parsonage, so we, with the pastor’s two daughters, played in the building by the hours, scurrying from belfry to basement.
In my young mind, that beloved building was the church. The childhood rhyme, “Here’s the church, and here’s the steeple; open the doors and see all the people,” was a tidy description of church for me.
Fifty years later, church is no longer tidy. For starters, my husband and I worship in a school auditorium which I’m sure is not a church. My work at VMMissions regularly presses me and my colleagues and our workers into the contested question, “What is church?” And if that weren’t hard enough to discern in the far-flung corners of Asia, postmodern Europe, and, increasingly, the United States, we also wrestle with “How do you multiply it?” More than once, my aching mind has come to rest only on the assurance that whatever the church is, Jesus has promised to build it.
If you were asked, “What are the irreducible minimums of the church?” what would you say? An assembly of some number? What number? A pattern of assembling? What’s the pattern and what mission and values would it reflect? Beyond discerning that biblically, and agreeing what church should be for a particular context, how would you multiply it? Would you “launch large,” plant house churches or “missional communities,” “swarm off” of existing churches, or something else?
For boomers like myself, these questions can seem irrelevant – we think we know what church is and we hear about the occasional church plant. But these questions are not irrelevant to our children, too many of whom have answered by leaving the church, but some of whom are running hard after a better version of the bride of Christ than Christendom modeled. One less self-satisfied, cloistered and busy with its own affairs.
Consider these questions for your own church family, particularly the question of multiplication. Jesus is building his church, inviting in those who were once far off (Eph. 2:13). How are your patterns in discipling, Bible studies, small groups, worship and service extending Jesus’ invitation to far-off persons and teaching them to do the same? May God open the doors of our hearts and enable us to “see all the people” he longs to bring together into his family, the church!
Lynn Suter is Director of Operations and International Ministries for Virginia Mennonite Missions.