Church Education Trust

4.3 Church Development.


In pursuit of answers about “doing” and “how to do church”, Warren returned to the New Testament text, believing that behind the growth of the early 1st century church, principles and a process which would help church growth in the 21st century could be found. Warren suggests that if you want to know what the purposes of the church are you must “study what the Bible has to say”.[1] Not all scholars would take such a restrictive approach to New Testament research. . 

Bosch quoting Fiorenza writes that  it was customary, to consider the New Testament writings primarily as documents of an inner Christian doctrinal struggle and as early Christian history confessional history, as a struggle between different Christian parties and theologians.[2] For Warren the historical issue of an internal doctrinal struggle within the 1st century church was important but not as important as the principles and process that delivered the church to this point of development, debate and direction.


History of the context was not a priority for Warren but discovery of principles that are recorded in the New Testament text were and so, throughout his writings there is no reference to a genuine encounter with the New Testament context. Martin Hengel suggests that the New Testament is “Mission History and Mission Theology”. [3] Kasting states: Mission was, in the early stages, more than a mere function; it was a fundamental expression of the life of the church. The beginnings of a missionary theology are therefore also the beginnings of Christian theology as such. 


Ben Meyer suggests: Christianity had never been more itself, more consistent with Jesus and more evidently en route to its own future, than in the launching of the world of mission.[5]  Martin Kahler[6] reminds us that “Mission is the mother of all theology”. Kahler also said that “theology began as an accompanying manifestation of the Christian mission”. The answer to Warren’s question about what “the church was meant to do” is summed up in one word:  “mission.

Missiology was an area of great interest for Warren, Kahler’s[7] words would impact on Warren’s drive to investigate the basis of the church’s mission in the “Missio Dei”, the calling of Israel to be a light to the nations,[8] and the commission of Jesus to His disciples to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth.[9] To understand what mission really meant, Warren would have to understand the principles and process that drove the early church leadership; this would be central to the development of his ecclesiology. 


4.3.1 Emerging Church. 


To genuinely search the scripture with scholarly intent, Warren would have to face the New Testament text, reflecting on documents of an inner Christian doctrinal struggle, understanding the primitive text as an attempt to, on the one hand, to understand it as confessional history, while acknowledging the theological struggles of the different Christian groups based in Antioch and Jerusalem.Good scholarship would demand that Warren take into consideration how other scholars understood the New Testament text that he considered as special revelation for the church.                        


The Christian church in the first century said Kahler, wrote their letters and gospels not as a theological work but wrote in the “context of an emergency situation of the church” as it encountered the world with its mission. Warren was also living in an emergency situation, of 21st century church decline.


Could the early church’s experience help this 20th century pastor build a balanced ecclesiology and ministry? Could Warren with scholarly intent enter into a first century context to discover the appropriate principles and process behind its theology of mission, creating the opportunity to restrict the speed of decline in the 21st Century church and promote the possibility of church growth which would be both numerical and spiritual?


Theologians would argue that there are a variety of theologies of mission in the New Testament. Pesch[11] lists almost 95 expressions in the Greek language relating to the diversity in understanding of Mission. It needs to be noted that the New Testament writers are maybe not as interested in theologising about mission (they knew the great commission and followed it) as they were in recording how it was carried out and the subsequent blessing that came from it.


In building an ecclesiology without understanding how the early church in its theological, and cultural context understood itself and the mission it was given, would be to leave any new formed ecclesiology open to challenges from all sorts of theological positions. Self-definition was critical to understanding why Warren interprets mission and church growth in the way that he does.  


Meyer, in studying the primitive church and the 1stcentury believers, suggested that because of their self definition after conversion, the power of that spiritual discovery led them to be involved in mission.Christianity has never been more itself, more consistent with Jesus and more evidently en route to its own future, than in the launching of the world mission.[12]


The development of Warren’s ecclesiology is summed up in his own words “to design the right strategy you must ask the right questions”.[13]  Peters in his book “A Theology of Church Growth”, writes, that a theology of church growth must of necessity include a certain direction of thought in the process of building the theology of church growth.


Biblical Theocentricity, or the God of the scriptures; New Testament Christocentricity or the Christ of the Scriptures, New Testament Pneumatology or the Holy Spirit of God; New Testament Theocracy or the kingdom of God; New Testament Ecclesiology ; the church of God and New Testament Cosmology; the world of God.


Warren suggests in his book that he has discovered five principles in the great commandment and the great commission of Jesus as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel. What then is the context out of which Warren has taken principles that govern what he does? 

[1] Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 96.

[2] Bosch, Transforming Mission, 15-55.

[3] Bosch, TM, 15.

[4] Bosch, TM, 15.

[5] Bosch, TM, 15-16.

[6] Bosch, Transforming Mission, 16.

[7] Kahler, Foot Note 476.

[8] Isaiah, 49:6.

[9] Matthew 28:20, Acts 1:8.

[10] Bosch, TM, 16
[11] Bosch, Transforming Mission, 16b.

[12] Bosch, TM, 16.

[13] Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 30.

[14] Peters, A Theology Of Church Growth, 29.

[15] Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 7.

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