A Napkin-Sized Gospel?
After hearing the hype, and seeking to put some flesh on the bones of my convictions regarding the missional nature of the church, I decided to read Reggie McNeal's Missional Renaissance. Having recently read Neil Cole's Organic Church, I noticed some common assumptions between the two. One that stood out to me was the notion that one of the keys to a rapid multiplication movement (disciples—>small groups—>churches) is having a message that can be communicated in 30 seconds or less or written (presumably in large print) on a napkin. In other words, if the church is to replay the "spontaneous expansion" of the early church in the 21st century, we need to bear a napkin-sized gospel.
In the era of "sticky" mission, vision, and core value statements, this is common sense. But I can't help but believe that it is a capitulation to contemporary Western culture. Something I read today in Herman Ridderbos' Redemptive History and the New Testament Scriptures reminded me of this fact. He comments,
For the communication and transmission of what was seen and heard in the fullness of time, Christ established a formal authority structure to be the source and standard for all future preaching of the gospel. . . . Because [the apostles] not only received revelation but were also the bearers and organs of revelation, their primary and most important task was to function as the foundation of the church. To that revelation Christ binds His church for all time; upon it He founds and builds His church. (13)
Ask yourself this question: Did Jesus, the apostles, and the leaders of the early church preach a napkin-sized gospel? Is this indeed how the Christian faith spread in those early glory years? Was the dissemination of a minimalistic theology the modus operandi of Christ and the apostles in their mission to the world? Should it be ours? What are the implications?