By Merv Budd
Back in the ‘80s there was a commercial that so grabbed the imagination of popular culture it became a tagline for jokes:
The commercial showed a popular restaurant offering chicken and someone asking what they were made of. The server said “Processed chicken,” which, he explains, is made up of chicken parts. The person ordering asked “what parts?” The answer that came back is “different parts,” the implication being that it didn’t really matter what parts of the chicken it was because “parts is parts.”
The thought that you can just take a bunch of chicken parts and cram them together for consumption came across as obviously disgusting. The implication was that there are some parts of the chicken that are meant for eating and others that weren’t.
In many ways there are churches that have that same “pieces is pieces and parts is parts” mentality when it comes to the task of the church. Sure there are certain things that the church should be doing and as long as they are all crammed in together, it doesn’t matter how they are arranged. Fellowship, discipleship, mission, worship: cram them altogether and you’ve got a church.
But what if how these aspects of church life are put together makes a difference? What if just mashing them together in any arrangement could actually result in a church not doing what a church is meant to do?
What if these different aspects of church life are like punctuation in sentences? Just throwing the words together, without the proper punctuation can actually have some tragic results:
In a similar way, we can have all the rights parts of what makes a church, but having them misplaced can have some negative results. For instance, while fellowship is an important aspect of church life, when it is the church’s highest value it will necessarily prevent effective outreach.
A church where the mission is not the first organizing principle of the church’s life will eventually cease to be the church. As Barth has often been quoted “The church’s mission is not secondary to its being; the church exists in being sent and in building itself for its mission.” The missional church is not primarily about having a mission or doing mission, it is about how the church is constituted. All that the church does must be able to point back to it’s relevance to the mission of God.