David Jackson, BCM/D Missionary for Church Multiplication
There are many scholars that believe the seeds for all of our foundational Christian theology can be found in the first eleven chapters of the book of Genesis. Within these chapters, you find creation, sin, redemption, the person and work of God, the Trinity, the nature and purpose of man and on and on you could go. If you subscribe to this theory—and I do—then what do you do about the church? After all, the ekklesia is not found here in its most obvious form—it’s a Greek word and a New Testament teaching, right?
To be sure, there is truth in that statement. Yet, one of the basic theological tenets we as Southern Baptists firmly believe is that the church is a living organism; God, who alone is the Creator (Gen. 1:1; Col. 1:16) has brought it into being. This is not a human invention; it is a divine creation! Jesus tells us He will build His church (Matt. 16:18); the Spirit’s presence on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) “brought it to life!” Its “life” is solely due to God!
Inanimate objects are rarely (if ever) used to refer to the church in the Scripture. True, it is called a “building” by Paul in 1 Cor. 3:9, almost in passing; but Peter later on explains this as organic, too, since we are like “living stones” and make up the material of this building (1 Peter 2:5). Jesus’ primary image was to call the church “a flock” (as with sheep). This image is thought-provoking in many ways; yet, all would agree that one essential characteristic of a “flock” is that it’s alive. Paul’s primary image in referring to the church is “the body” (of Christ). In all of these instances in Scripture and in many more, the church is seen as far more than a man-made organization or a business-run institution. It is alive with Christ as the Head!
The reality of this affects everything we do. We shouldn’t be talking about “what’s our vision for the coming years?” Rather, we should be asking “what’s His vision for the coming years” and then “what’s our part in that vision?” Our vision should only be His vision; our thoughts, His thoughts; our feelings, His feelings, and so on. We talk about being “His hands and feet,” and rightly so. I’m wondering then why our view of being His living Body is not more comprehensive than what we typically suggest.
All living organisms, created by their Lord, have been brought into being to fulfill His mission and to glorify Him. We know this to be true from the teachings of Scripture. We have been given the Great Commission and Great Commandment, and most churches do their best to live out these realities in their own world. But how do we do this? Is there something in our “living” systems that we might be missing?
Back in Genesis, chapter one, we find that God’s fundamental command to man and woman in the Garden of Eden was to “be fruitful and multiply…” (Gen. 1:28). We rightly understand this to mean they are to reproduce offspring. As a living entity, this chapter also teaches that one living organism after another was created by God to reproduce “after their own kind” (Gen. 1:11, 12, 21 twice, 24 twice, 25 three times). The principle seems obvious to me: every living organism created by God is intended to reproduce after its own kind.
By now most of you have discovered the logical outcome of this progression in thought. What this means in the living church, as I understand it, is that disciples are to reproduce disciples, leaders are to reproduce leaders, cell groups are to reproduce cell groups…and churches are to reproduce churches. This is God’s plan and intent for His regenerate flock.
A corollary truth to this is that people of character do not live their lives merely for their own survival and comfort. Rather, these people have an innate desire to provide for those who will come after them. The cost is real, but the reward is great. It enables their life to be larger and more meaningful than their own personal capacity or longevity. After all, Christ sacrificed on our behalf; His commission shouts we ought to do the same.
A couple of years ago I served as the interim pastor at one of our churches, which also operates a Christian school. At graduation in the year I arrived, the commencement speaker got up and made a statement to the graduates and their families that I have never forgotten. He reminded everyone, “You teach what you know, but you reproduce who you are.” I think he’s right! And if he is, what does that say about our reticence to reproduce after our own kind? If we are unwilling to model reproduction at the macro level (churches), how can we truly expect disciples to reproduce at the micro level?
God says, “Be fruitful and multiply…” What’s keeping His congregation where you attend from doing what He asks?
David Jackson can be reached at (800) 466-5290, ext. 225 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.