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Mission-Shaped Church: A Theological Response – John M Hull

August 28, 2015

MSCATRThe Mission-Shaped Church report argued that the Church of England depended too much on local parish churches and was essentially spatially, geographically organised. However, it sad, people inhabit different places for work, leisure and home and also network. The report wanted the renewal of local church life but realised the need ‘to encourage other kinds of ecclesial formation’. The parish church is not the only way church can be conceived. The diversity of associations – like a café church –  had previously been thought of as being ‘bridges’ into traditional church structures: now they should possess an ‘integrity in themselves’.

Hull argues that the report is too Anglican and shows a highly ‘church-centric’ view of cultural and social change. It ignores other denominations and there is no ecumenical overview of what might be the calling of the church in a culture that has changed dramatically. There is also little awareness of other ethnicities and other faiths.

Most importantly, he says that the current debate is too narrowly defined around Church and misses the point that Christians are called to serve the world. The Church is a result of mission and it is called to mission in the world. Too often we are concerned with maintenance not mission.

There’s a chapter on “The Church, The Mission and The Kingdom”. The mission is to bring in the kingdom of God and the church is the agent of that mission. The Church is the agent of mission and is to assist in the growth of the Kingdom as well as exhibiting signs of the kingdom. And God works outside the church – our task is to discern where He is and to join him there, not simple to put bums on pews.

What is the church to do (not just to say) about poverty, the marginalised? Is the way forward by merely to see “mission as creating more and more Churches” that satisfy our inner need? (p.36) but ignoring our sense of being prophetic in bringing the good news of justice, compassion to those in poverty and “binding up the broken hearted” (Isaiah 61:1). Are we constantly listening afresh, to God’s will & vision rather than what the Church thinks He wants, because wherever God is at work mission proceeds from God. Mission is God’s way of love and salvation.

We do not build the Kingdom by (simply) growing the church. After all, Karl Barth made a clear distinction in that “the Church is not the kingdom of God but exists to fulfil the work of God” Church Dogmatics Volume 1.

“We looked for a mission-shaped Church, but what we found was a church-shaped mission.”

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