this struck me the other day - maybe coz I'm slow, bear with me... Jesus never told us to create churches. He said we should preach the good news of his Kingdom.
He says 'I will build my church' (Matthew 16:18). He says it in the context of Peter's confession of who Jesus is - the messiah, that is the coming king of God's Kingdom. And he says it in the context of Peter declaring this truth publicly - albeit to the Twelve.
It is interesting that the other synoptics - both of which report this conversation - don't have the bit about Jesus building his church. Commentators suggest this is because Matthew is particularly concerned with the church. That might be the case. But Matthew doesn't seem to be saying that the 12 will build the church. Rather he says they will confess the king and the king will build his church.
So what? I hear you cry.
Just this. There's lots of talk at the moment of how we get the church right to communicate the good news in a changed culture. Ministers bemoan the fall-off in volunteering over the past generation - how hard it is to get people to fill vacancies in church organisations. We talk about launching new ministries to attract new communities of people, of having more services and needing to get more members involved in running those services. All good stuff. But...
In all this, I wonder if we've lost the plot a bit. Christians are called to proclaim the message of the Kingdom of God, the story of his reconciling justice, his new world order embodied in Jesus and his people. And they are called to do as they go into the world (Mt 28:19), something we do as leave our homes everyday.
What happens as we do this is that people respond, express interest, find faith, commit themselves to Jesus and naturally gather into groups to explore together what that means - this appears to be what's happening in the early chapters of Acts (if we read them forwards rather than backwards in the light of all our historical understanding of what the church became (I'm fed up of commentators 'discovering' proto-catholicism or whatever in these texts. Let's just read them for what they are.)
What lessons are there for our debate about emerging church here?