• LES HENSON

Structures of Church and Mission

Updated: Dec 29, 2019


God’s redemptive mission has been worked out in history through the normative use of two structures. There are Church Congregational Structures and Church Missional Structures.

Church congregational structures can be described as structured fellowships in which membership is broadly inclusive. Such groups know no distinction on the grounds of age, gender, etc. Church Congregational Structures provide for the overall unity, continuity, and longevity. They ensure stability. They serve as a resource base. They provide the necessary checks and balances between unbridled initiative and power-hungry bureaucracy. They offer authority and authenticity. They consolidate Christianity upon its expansion.

Church Missional Structures, on the other hand, are outgoing and boundary-breaking instruments in the expansion of the church. Church Missional Structures can be defined as structured fellowships in which membership involves an adult second decision or special commitment, beyond membership of the Church Congregational Structure. Such groups are usually limited by considerations of age, gender, martial status, etc. Church Missional Structures provide stimulation towards new life and innovation. They introduce diversity. They allow for mobility and expansion and major in-depth on commitment and gospel ideals. They offer the opportunity to expand to new territories and focus special needs. The more culturally or geographically distant a group is, the higher the degree of intentionality required to achieve it.

In observing the factors involved in the expansion of the Christian movement, it seems that Church Missional Structures have been used to expand it into new territories whilst Church Congregational Structures have tended to consolidate the church once it has taken root. Both functions are essential to the overall process of the expansion of Christianity. God uses both of them for His redemptive plan.

Hence, the following hypothesis which relates Church Congregational Structures and Church Missional Structures to one another, each being normative expressions of the church and each being necessary to the other for the expansion of Christianity, The Christian movement has its best potential for expansion when Church Congregational Structures and Church Missional Structures are symbiotically related to one another to accomplish their functions. Symbiosis is a biological term meaning the association of two different organisms living attached to one another. It is used only of associations that are mutually advantageous. The symbiotic relationship of Church Congregational Structures and Church Missional Structures is best when each is semi-autonomous in decision-making. They coordinate with each other on goals and strategies. They have common reference points or sources of authority.

Examples of Church Missional Structures include: First, the missionary bands of The New Testament, Paul, and Barnabas, Paul and Silas, and Barnabas, and John Mark, etc. Notice these had a symbiotic relationship with the church at Antioch. Second, the Monastic Movement produced most missionaries between the fourth and the eighteenth centuries with the exception of the Waldenses, Lollards and a few others groups. At first, they were not intentionally mission structures, but later became so. Popes often chose monks to go into new areas on mission. Finally, the Celtic Movement established a chain of monasteries across Scotland and England and became the driving force of mission into Northern Europe.

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