I love how Jesus carried a kind of context appropriate response with him into a variety of situations. Perhaps most famously in Matthew 12 Jesus responded to the disciples criticism of someone who was preaching the Kingdom of God without authorisation by commenting that “whoever is not against me is for me.” Then in Mark, speaking in a context of spiritual evil Jesus takes the opposite tack, “whoever is not for me, is against me.” The ‘for’ in this sense relating to the spirit in which something was happening. It was a wrong spirit, one that did harm, whereas the declaration of the Kingdom by the unauthorised preacher was in the right spirit, and was therefore part of the purpose of God in that place.
The question I get asked usually sounds like ‘are resourcing churches the only game in town now then?’ To which my answer is invariably ‘yes and no’.
The ‘yes’ comes first because Jesus made clear that following him was about being fruitful, about multiplying, about one hungry person showing another hungry person where the feast is to be found. For the only way to follow Jesus is to bear fruit, the debate is in wondering just what that fruit looks like. For me fruitfulness is about the multiplication of Kingdom of God in the lives of ordinary children, women and men. It is about the one who feels worthless discovering that her mattering is really a deep awareness of God with her. It is about the one left outside discovering that the key to the door is in his pocket, it is about transformation, hopefulness, and abundant life. So fruitfulness is always about lives, about relationships, and about wholeness, and this fruitfulness is just what happens when Jesus’ followers declare the Kingdom in deeds and words in the place God has called them. If a resourcing church is not fruitful it is therefore not a resourcing church, it is perhaps an organisation with good intent, but not an organism rooted and growing up in Him.
I say ‘No’ however because what the asker is really asking is ‘don’t I count too?’ When such a question is considered in the context of the Kingdom the answer is always there is no one structure that leads to fruitfulness, only one way – Jesus. Therefore Partnership for Missional Church (PMC), or Leading Your Church into Growth (LYCiG) or any other activity that equips, inspires and leads churches into fruitfulness has an equally important part to play in equipping today’s church.
So yes fruitfulness is the only way, but the resourcing church agenda is not the only way to fruitfulness. If I was to be completely naive, and I can be, then really the route to fruitfulness is simply about working in partnership with the Holy Spirit to see God’s purpose erupt in our 21st century context. We don’t need all the stuff we add, we just need Him, each other, and a willingness to listen to His Spirit. However we add all the other stuff because it is our rather human way of saying this really matters to us. We long to see a culture shaped by the love of God, infused with Grace, overflowing with generosity, and sometimes knowing there are some structures to help us just boosts our confidence a bit.
However, every church, in every parish, in every part of our nation is called to be fruitful, to not be fruitful is to not be a church. The resourcing church agenda lends itself to a culture of intentional fruitfulness from the beginning, and within that agenda some will have gifts of administration, some gifts of helps, some gifts of hospitality, some will teach and preach, some lay hands on the sick and they will recover, some clean up, some will intercede for hours, but in all that there is fruitfulness.
So perhaps for me, and the place I labour in, it is less about what program or process I engage with, and more about am I, are we, fruitful, for that is where our call lies, regardless of how it is worked out. Resourcing churches will be monitored for fruitfulness, and that means numbers, they will be learned from in terms of growth, they will be a blessing to our region through transformation and I can’t wait to see the stories of God’s grace ripple across our region as they do.