I am not opposed to denominationalism. I can see its value in history and for the kingdom. However, the Village Church does not "do mission" primarily with a denomination, since we believe that Jesus Christ is the hope of the world and that the local church is the instrument by which that hope is made manifest.
It is my experience that the institutionalized structure of denominations actually removes, or at least lessens, the biblical responsibility of a local church to equip ministers of reconciliation with the message of reconciliation.
Who has primary responsibility for the mission? In a denominational structure the primary responsibility of mission is from the top down. The denomination collects funds, finds "missionaries," equips them, teaches methods, sends them, and provides for them. The denomination finds areas and people groups to engage nationally and internationally. In all this, the responsibility of the local church is minimized to "resourcing" mission, rather than being the mission.
We advocate a bottom out approach to the mission. This means The Village Church strives to engage, equip, and send our local church body into the world as ministers of reconciliation. We don't lead them into mission activities, but rather, as Ephesians 4 commands, we equip them to be what God through Christ has reconciled them to be, ambassadors.
God has given your local church all of the gifts, talents, and resources needed to fulfill his mission, just as Paul told the Corinthians that they did "not lack any spiritual gift" (1 Cor. 1:7). You might not be a "missions expert," but God has called your church to be ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:14-21). So equip and empower them to lead out.
This plays out in how our church engages the mission in our city, state, country and throughout the world. We call it Church Development: because of our theology of mission, we desire to raise up and develop the local church body or bodies in every area and people group we engage.
- Sometimes this means that we plant churches.
- Sometimes this means that we help undergird struggling churches.
- Almost always this means that we partner with existing churches.
What do you need to do missions without a denomination?
First, equip your members.
Second, learn how to partner and network with other churches. There is no one church that can effectively engage an entire community, nation, and the world. It is going to take a "cooperative program." This, I think, was what denominations intended to do, but they failed by removing responsibility from the local church. In fact, denominational agencies have begun to function as if local churches did not do mission. To counteract this, church networks have emerged that enable churches who share values to work together yet keeps responsibility for mission with each local church. Where the denomination assumes the local church is not doing mission, the networks assume they are doing mission. It will be through such partnerships that the mission continues to be realized in our generation.
By no means do I want to discount the work of denominations or historic cooperative programs. I am simply advocating a change of focus. The local church has been given the responsibility to be on God's mission. If we lessen or abdicate that responsibility we shift the foundation of mission.
Jeremy Pace is Director of Missions at The Village Church in Highland, Texas.
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format, provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 1,000 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be explicitly approved by 9Marks.
Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © 9Marks. Website: www.9Marks.org. Email: email@example.com. Toll Free: (888) 543-1030.