Critics of the “Two Structures” Theory. Bruce Camp’s Objection Considered (3rd of 5)

Bruce Camp is director of DualReach. Click here to find out more.

My friend Bruce Camp directs a great ministry called DualReach. DualReach can help your church increase its mission involvement. Ralph Winter endorsed DualReach saying, “Bruce Camp is the right person. This is the right time. His organization is vitally needed.”[1] Bruce and I enjoy much common ground. Bruce knows I hold a different opinion on one thing: he believes mission agencies are a “scriptural abnormality.”[2] In a 1995 Missiology article, “A Theological Examination of the Two Structure Theory,”[3] and in his doctor of ministry dissertation,[4] Bruce explains his objection to Ralph Winter’s “Two Structures” paradigm. Today we listen to Bruce Camp’s viewpoint.

Bruce Camp’s Objection Considered. Bruce Camp believes “the local church has primary responsibility for world missions, though primary responsibility does not mean sole responsibility.”[5] Camp also believes mission agencies are “a gift from God to help local churches fulfill their Great Commission mandate.”[6] It is important, he writes, that “local churches, mission agencies, missionaries, and planted (national) churches should relate to each other.”[7] Mission agencies can be valid, Camp says, on condition that they start in a local church, “not usurping the local church’s biblical mandate.”[8] He takes issue with Ralph Winter’s 1979 article “Paul and the Regions Beyond,” in which Winter wrote, “Paul’s missionary band was as much the church as were the synagogue structures which supported him and which were in turn created by his ministry.”[9] Camp suggests that “a theological error is involved when mission agencies (sodalities) are presented as another expression of the universal church . . . It is biblically unwarranted to suggest that missionary bands are another expression of the universal church.[10]

For Bruce Camp, the most important value is the unity of the church, a value to the present writer as well. Bruce writes, “The New Testament stresses the unity of the Church, whether local or universal, and particularly the fact that this unity is organic, and that the organism of the Church stands in vital relationship to Jesus Christ as her glorious head.”[11] The church, Bruce writes, is “the unity of a living organism.”[12] It follows, Camp believes, that there can be only one structure, what we normally think of as church. “Did the church initiate a mission agency?” If “yes,” the mission agency is valid. My comments follow below.

Blincoe: Bruce Camp expressed the importance of church unity (though my Catholic and Greek Orthodox friends surely appreciate the irony when Protestants congratulate themselves on admiring church unity). For Protestants, “church unity” is code for a fatal bear hug that smothers all independent mission initiatives. It is code for a paternal, “we know best” squeeze that takes the breath out of independent initiatives until they faint or submit to church administration. This fatal embrace snuffed out Protestant mission from the beginning of the Reformation. For 275 years the Reformed Church suppressed mission initiatives unless church administrators set them in motion We wrote about the “mission ice age” here and the suppression of mission initiatives here. This is where sola scriptura is going to heal the breach that developed in the Reformation, since in the New Testament, there were two administrations of Christianity, as we wrote here and here.

Is church the right translation of ekklesia? Bruce Camp uses the word “church,” as we all do, for the Greek word ekklesia. The reader already knows that ekklesia means “assembly” or “congregation.” Paul writes a letter to the ekklesia of Rome and another to the ekklesia of Corinth for example. Tyndale translated the New Testament using the word “congregation” instead of “church.” How I wish we did as well![13] When Luther translated the New Testament into German, he knew he had to find a better word that kirche. Kirche is a building and a church hierarchy. Luther would not allow Jesus to say, “I will build my kirche.” Luther hit upon Gemeinde, that is, “assembly” or “community”.[14] Perfect. Here is Matthew 16:18 in Luther’s Bible: “Will ich bauen meine Gemeinde. Thank God for Martin Luther, and his German translation of the Bible. English language readers of the Bible are not so lucky. We are hobbled with church (kirche), the word that Luther knew would not do. Church is not the right English word for ekklesia. The bride of Christ deserves more eminence than Church suggests, amen? The bride of Christ is not a building to go to, not a temple made with human hands, and not an earthly organization. More about this interesting problem at a later time. But we can get nearer to the meaning of ekklesia if we keep in mind “assembly of the faithful” or “the people of God.”

Conclusion. Bruce Camp and I believe that relationships between church administrations and special-purpose mission agencies must be normalized. Bruce Camp is a leader in this important cause.[15] For Bruce, the validity of a mission agency is determined by whether a church brought it into existence and continues to administrate it. I courteously disagree. From the first century there have been two structures of God’s redemptive mission. I only realized this by reading what Jews wrote about the synagogue and the hevrah, or mission structure.

As we wrote here, Jesus Christ our Lord invited 12 men to form a hevrah. These havurot were common in the Jewish religion. They were not initiated in the synagogue. There were two administrative structures, one may say, in first century Judaism. Christians borrowed from both of them. The Holy Spirit created Paul and Barnabas’ missionary team. The Holy Spirit bestowed “grace and apostleship” on Paul and his team “to bring about the obedience of faith among the Gentiles” (Romans 1:5). This grace was not generally bestowed on other Christians. It was a special grace given to missionaries to establish churches among unreached peoples. Winter’s “Two Structures” paradigm is an appropriate and true explanation of “what is really there” in first century Christianity. Paul Pierson offers an apt summary of my position. Pierson writes,

Some say that if the Church were completely healthy it would not need such mission structures. That is clearly wrong. A healthy church will constantly form teams that are called to specific projects, whether at the local level, focusing on special groups in its own area; or at the international level, focusing on distant culture. In the latter case, it will probably cooperate with other congregations of the same heritage in a denominational mission board, or with a multi-denominational mission structure. Both are legitimate.[16]

[1] Ralph Winter’s quote here.

[2] Camp, “A Theological Examination of the Two-Structure Theory.” Camp is quoting Harry Boer and agreeing with him. See Harry R. Boer, Pentecost and Missions (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961), 214.

[3] Camp, “A Theological Examination of the Two-Structure Theory.”

[4] “Scripturally Considered, the Local Church Has Primary Responsibility for World Evangelization.”

[5] Ibid. 4

[6] “Paradigm Shifts in World Evangelization,” Mobilizer 5, no. 1 (1994): 3.

[7] “Scripturally Considered, the Local Church Has Primary Responsibility for World Evangelization,” Abstract.

[8] “A Theological Examination of the Two-Structure Theory,” 207.

[9] Winter, “Paul and the Regions Beyond,” 7. “The English word ‘church,’ writes Winter, “is most likely traceable back to a Greek word (kuriakon) which is not even to be found in the New Testament. Nevertheless, most evangelicals go along with the exegetical sleight of hand that takes place when our references to denominational organizations as churches is substituted for the Greek word ekklesia in the New Testament, which more accurately refers primarily to a people, a community, a multitude, a movement and not to a specific type of organizational structure.” Ibid., 6. For more on kuriakon as the probable root word for kirche, kirk and church see K. L. Schmidt, “Ekklesia,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 531-2.

[9] “Martin Luther “detested the old German word Kirche,” writes Charles van Engen, “because of its institutional and hierarchical associations, preferring such words as crowd (Haufe), convocation (Versammlung), assembly (Sammlung), and congregation (Gemeinde).” Charles Edward Van Engen, Mission on the Way: Issues in Mission Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), 105. These German terms more closely resemble the ecclesia of the New Testament.

[10] Camp, “A Theological Examination of the Two-Structure Theory,” 201.

[11] “Scripturally Considered, the Local Church Has Primary Responsibility for World Evangelization,” 31. Bruce is quoting Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 2d rev. and enl. ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.,: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co., 1982), 557.

[12] Camp, “Scripturally Considered, the Local Church Has Primary Responsibility for World Evangelization,” 33. Quoted in Archibald Robertson and Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, 2nd ed., The International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1914), 269-70.


[14] Ekklesia, Church, Ekklesia vs Church (

[15] Camp, Bruce is founder of DualReach.  Ralph D. Winter’s endorsement is on the DualReach website.

[16] Pierson, The Dynamics of Christian Mission: History through a Missiological Perspective. 33. Pierson also says, “I do not want to denigrate the institutional churches. We need them. They often provide stability, continuity and a system of checks and balances needed in every enterprise. However, even while we recognize their importance we must also be open to the Holy Spirit, who constantly surprises us and works outside these structures.” 33.