About a month ago I was on staff part time as an associate pastor in a church plant here in Utah. I was asked to preach a few times, and I like using such opportunities (including this blog) to push the envelope by being provocative in the hopes of stimulating fresh thinking among evangelicals and others. During one of my sermons I stated that in my view Paul was not a church planter. Despite what we often hear in the received wisdom, I said that Paul was primarily an ambassador announcing the Kingdom, and that a byproduct (if you will) of this herald and embodiment of the Kingdom was the formation of the church, but that Paul was not intentionally planting churches per se. (Incidentally, this and other perspectives were not well received by the pastor and I made the decision to pursue my theological and missiological deconstruction and reconstruction apart from being a part of this church's staff.)
Before you throw up your hands and say to yourself, "Morehead has definitely lost it," consider the fact that much the same perspective has been offered by others that the reader may be more willing to consider than my own. For example, I am currently enjoying the book Emerging Churches (Baker Academic, 2005) by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger, and in the book I was pleased to read the following:.
"Jesus was not a church planter. He created communities that embodied the Torah, that reflected the kingdom of God in their entire way of life. He asked his followers to do the same. Emerging churches seek first the kingdom. They do not seek to start churches per se but to foster communities that embody the kingdom....Jesus created an alternative social order, one built on servanthood and forgiveness, through the activities he performed as a leader of a counter-temple movement. Paul continued this model as well. 'If we stated the agenda of Paul's mission in modern terms, it seems clear that he was building an international, anti-imperial, alternative society embodied in local communities.'...missional communities differ greatly from current forms of church planting." (pp. 59-60)I agree, and their sentiments echo my own feelings on the issue. This assessment by a professor of church growth and a missiologist is worth considering. I hope that others will reassess other facets of theology, missiology, and ecclesiology with the challenges posed by the emerging cultures. The shifts in culture may provide us with an opportunity to recapture a more biblical understanding and approach.