What’s striking about how Paul engages in mission (see partners in mission part one and part two) is how Paul consistently puts the local church at the heart of mission. Think for a moment about his approach.
1. Paul is sent by a local church
Paul is sent by a local church and reports back to a local church (Acts 13:1-3; 14:27-28). He’s not sent by a mission agency, nor does he report to anyone other than his local church. Of course not, there were no mission agencies! Mission agencies only came into being because local churches stopped doing their job of sending people. I’m convinced mission agencies today have a role as specialist advisers, but mission belongs to the local church.
2. Paul goes as with a team to model church
Paul always takes team members: Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Titus, Luke. He wants support and he wants co-workers. And he wants a team that will demonstrate Christian community so unbelievers can see the gospel in action and new believers have a model to follow.
3. Paul’s aim is to plant churches
Everywhere he goes Paul’s wants to leave behind a church. Yes, he proclaimed the gospel. Yes, he helped the poor. But his goal was to start a church – so that the church could continue to proclaim the gospel and help the poor after Paul had left.
4. Paul establishes churches by leaving
Paul moves on. So churches can develop without him. So new leaders can emerge. So they don’t become dependent on him. (See Partners in Mission #2.)
5. Paul creates mission partnerships between churches
Paul refuses to let one church come under the authority of another (1:11-24; 2:6-9). He doesn’t want a church to be dependent on others churches. But at the same time he pursues relationships between churches (2:1-3 and the Jerusalem collection). He doesn’t want churches to be independent. He wants partnership in mission. (See Partners in Mission #1.)
Let me tell you about Arvid. Arvid was the pastor of The Disciples’ Church in Durres, Albania. Now he is leading a small church planting team in a city in Macedonia. It’s city of 70,000 people and the team are the only Christians in the city. As we were praying around the city, the mosque was overflowing with people praying halfway up the path outside. We had lunch in a café which the team call the Happy Man Restaurant because the owner is always smiling. What’s interesting about this is that in a city of 70,000 a smiling man is noteworthy enough to get his restaurant named after him.
Sending their pastor was a massive decision for the small church in Durres. For three years they sent small teams to the city three times a year so everyone got the vision. Then a team of eight stayed for three months researching the culture and make-up of the city. Arvid described how making the decision involved lots of coffee, talking to people so they felt part of what was happening. This church planting team in this unreached city is the result of one, small church taking responsibility for mission.
Arvid and his wife Rudina are planting with a married couple from a church in Luton called Damien and Sarah. Damien used to be a postman. Their church was praying for people to work with Arvid and Rudina. Brian asked if anyone felt God suggesting a name. Sarah said, ‘Yes … mine.’ When she told Damien he hit the roof. But now there they are with their three young children working under the leadership of Arvid. This church planting team in this unreached city is a partnership of local churches.
This conviction that the local church at the heart of mission is The Crowded House has a close association with Radstock (www.radstock.org). Radstock was founded by Steve Timmis and many TCH people have been involved in its leadership and its ministry.