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I just finished reading Kent Carlson and Mike Lueken’s book, Renovation of the Church (IVP Books, 2011). What an interesting and thoughtful read! I saw myself and my church in their story many times. The last chapter was especially intriguing, where they sought to cast a vision for the future. Borrowing a metaphor from Dallas Willard, they encourage the church to establish “beachheads.”

A beachhead is a term describing an invading army moving onto the shore of the nation they are invading and establishing themselves in enemy territory. From this beachhead, the military is able to bring in fresh troops and all the necessary supplies to establish new front lines in order to advance on the enemy. Once the beach has been taken, a command post and a field hospital are established there. And the beachhead becomes a secure place to stockpile supplies.” (176)

Applying the metaphor to the church, Carlson concludes:

“We no longer believe that the task of developing churches was foremost in Jesus’ mind (referring to the Great Commission [Matthew 28:18-20]). We believe that Jesus was referring to something similar to the concept of establishing beachheads for the kingdom of God. Planting churches undoubtedly will be a natural and necessary development of this perspective. Churches will be the organizational headquarters, the command post, the field hospital, the place where the resources are stored and given away. But our purpose is to provide followers of Christ with the necessary tools so that they can establish new front lines where the Kingdom of God is breaking out.” (177)

Lately I’ve been thinking quite a lot about the purpose of the church. How can we best fulfill the Great Commission? Are we really advancing the Kingdom of God in our community? Where are the new converts? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but the beachhead metaphor gives me pause.

Are we providing the tools that followers of Christ need to be able to establish new front lines for the Kingdom of God? May the Lord guide us as we seek to move our church in this direction.


I think it's important to learn, through the Spirit, to make the most of every opportunity.  One of the things I'm trying to practice is speaking to those I encounter while walking to my office, establishing connections with them, and when the opportunity comes, raise spiritual issues to them.  I am trying to follow the model Jesus gives in John 4.  I love how John tells that Jesus "had to" go through Samaria.  This was not what most Jews would do; they went around Samaria.  Not Jesus.  And when he meets the woman at the well, he begins with a non-threatening request: basically, a cup of cold water.  He then turns the conversation into spiritual, by speaking of the living water.  I'm getting to know someone along the route I take to my office, and he was using a tool to weed his driveway.  I pointed out that it is good for us to work with soil, since we ourselves are made of dust.  That opened the door to a small spiritual talk with the man.

I am convinced that if we pray for the opportunities, we will find them, and be alert to them.  Our conversation needs to be seasoned with salt as well as full of grace.  We need to be real, and we need to make people thirsty by what we say, thirsty to think more about this God whose kingdom is breaking in.

Thank you Leon for your post and your reflection on "beachhead".

Going back and reading the great commission once again, and reflecting on Jesus "instructions" throughout the Gospel accounts, you are right when you say that you "believe that the task of developing churches was (not) foremost in Jesus’ mind". I understand that the salvation of individuals was foremost in Jesus' mind.  

Following an in-depth study of  the great commission several years ago, we found that the starting point of being part of God's Great Commission was at the end of the text, requiring us to first learn to obey what Jesus teaches us about kingdom life and our commitment to living to His standards. Only when we have learned to obey Jesus in life value terms, are we obedient in "...teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."

"They/them" have to go through the same cycle of accepting and obeying what Jesus teaches them, the result of which is manifest in their public confession of their personal (not private) faith through Baptism. 

The community of disciples is the community of those who have gone through this process and they comprise the Church. 

Ultimately, the Church as insitution does not fulfill God's Great Commission; individuals do. The Church as institution resources us to be a part of God's Great Commission. 

Your last question, "Are we providing the tools that followers of Christ need..." is the question the Church as institution should be asking. Individuals who have surrendered their lives to obey Jesus and follow Him into God's Kingdom by following God's Great Commission, can help respond whether the Church is indeed providing them with the right (appropriate) tools. 

I would be keen to read other's thoughts and reflections (even studies) into this. 

Than you for your post and comment on "beach head"




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