Baby or Bathwater? Must we ditch traditional church structures to do mission well?

Author: Jonny Baker is the National Youth Coordinator for the Church Missionary Society, director of worship for Greenbelt and director of the independent record label Proost.


Part of the genius of the gospel is that it has been able to take root and grow in the soil of cultures and communities across the world and down the ages. Good mission (we now know) would hope for, and expect, the fruit of the gospel to be Christian communities that reflect local cultures, languages, ways of relating, music, rituals and so on, with leadership that is truly indigenous and is able to improvise imaginatively the gospel in and out of the cultural context. We also know this is a lot trickier in practice than this sounds. We are painfully aware of the complex mix of contextual and imperialistic mission practice whose legacy is visible around the world.
The Western world has changed hugely in recent decades and undergone a paradigm shift from modern to post-modern times. Virtually every sector of life and culture has struggled with this change. And the church is no different, finding the challenge of change difficult. A number of pioneers and younger leaders, native to this emerging postmodern culture, have instinctively done what many missionaries have done before, followed the beckoning of the Spirit, shared the gospel and developed Christian communities within this culture(s). Emerging churches are simply communities who practice the way of Jesus in postmodern cultures [1].

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