Thursday, 29 November 2007


I like pithy sayings. Especially when they play with words. Tim Dearborn’s “It is not the Church of God that has a mission in the world, but the God of mission who has a church in the world” is a well known favourite.

In an introduction to missiology class yesterday one my students came out with another good ‘un.

We were studying Alan [sorry John - see comments] Hull’s theological critique of the influential Mission-Shaped Church. I asked if anyone could summarise Hull’s argument. The answer came quick as a flash, “If the church misses the point, what’s point of planting more churches?” Nice, neat, sharp and spot-on accurate. So much so that I plan to nick it and use it whenever I can.

The problem is I don’t entirely agree with Hull.

He does have a point. A very important point. If churches are self-serving rather than kingdom-seeking they live in a way that denies the gospel. Absolutely. Preach it Alan! [sorry again John - see comments] But are such churches utterly pointless, a waste of time? I think not.

To assert, as Hull does, that church exists to be an agent of God’s mission is of course correct. But when he goes on to add that church is not a fruit of God’s mission he goes too far. Hull overlooks or denies the importance of individual salvation.

Church is very definitely fruit as well as agent of the mission of God. The reign of God isn’t only about justice peace and liberation of the oppressed through the transformation of society. It is also about the justification, peace and liberation of individuals as they are born from above becoming followers of Christ and part of God’s missional community, the church.

So nice line, great summary of Hull’s argument but not true enough to be used without qualification.


Sean Winter said...

Errr...isn't his name John?

Glen Marshall said...

Oops! yes of course it is. I was obviously confusing him with the lead singer of popular 70's folk rock geordie band Lindisfarne. An easy mistake to make I think you'll agree.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Glen, but a classroom of students are witnesses to the "pithy comment" being mine. I'll let you use it - but remember to footnote the source!