missonal


Last Sunday, two things converged: Sanctify decided to connect beyond TFB and Dan Lim pointed to Southern California and showed us the world.

The whole world comes to L.A. to attend school; hundreds are in the South Bay.  What an amazing gift God has given us: he brought the ends of the earth to our doorstep and all we need do is come alongside them in ordinary life and witness to Jesus.

The call to connect as church in our city has converged with the call to witness to Jesus to the ends of the earth.

What a priceless gift.

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UPDATED 2/11/09

Question: Given the identity of church, what are the activities that would express that identity and by what criteria are those expressions to be evaluated?

For too long, the church has separated its activities from daily life; we have conformed to a sacred-secular dichotomy that does not exist. God is Creator and Ruler of all and we are his people in all of life. We–his church–ought to bear his influence through regular life in our neighborhoods. I do not mean the sort of influence that we often package as programs, but rather an influence had by joining existing services in our neighborhoods, working together in the community as a powerful expression of church in the world.

How should we decide which services to join? General grace is one criterion: “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45b).

As we consider participating in this work, let us ask, “Will we demonstrate God’s mercy, grace, and rule before the world?”

If the answer is yes, then let us join the work.

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I hesitated in posting this, because it is an indictment of and a challenge to me more than to any who read it, for I have separated myself from my neighborhoods.

In self-defense, I offer a usual excuse: time. But I must ask myself, “If I am too busy to be a neighbor, them am I not too busy?”

I also offer the excuse of calling, for I am called to minister to the church. But does this excuse me from service as the church? I think not.

Now, the million-dollar question: Will I take the next step?

Related
Robert Campbell:

  • Being a Local Church “…discern those few key points of dissension that will communicate what it means to live the gospel of King Jesus most clearly to our people and our place.”
  • Finding Your Way With the World “…[1] use truth rather than opinion…[2] change the existing culture…[3] shape the arriving culture”

In the discussion regarding the relationship between missiology and ecclesiology, I am going to go off the rails and say that theology proper is the only primary theological element. Everything else is part of the web and in direct and constant relation to theology proper; further, everything else is in dynamic and flexible relationship with all the other elements. The connections vary in strength, intensity, and prominence.

Those who say Trinity is first are on the right track, but that is not all. In theology proper, we have trinity, attributes, missio Dei, Creator, Paterology, Christology, and Pneumatology. All these are subsets of theology proper. Radiating out from that, with direct connections to the core, is everything else.

On any given day and in any given circumstance, the individual elements relate to one another, sometimes as influence, but always with reciprocation. This means, for example, that missiology does not come before or after ecclesiology, but that these are in a reciprocal relationship, where each influences the other. Depending on the specific need, one or the other has more influence. The question is what exactly does this have to do with our practice?

Learning and worship are primary, but they are incomplete in and of themselves. If they are only internal to the community of faith or to the individual person, they are incomplete; they are not true learning and true worship. Worship, by its very nature, always leaks out in holy living in the context of community. Learning always leaks out in proclamation and purity. If this is the case, then the sometimes critique of the centrality of worship and learning in the “non-missional” church is actually a critique of incomplete learning and worship.

What needs to be created-innovated are opportunities for and means of complete worship and complete learning—both of which need to be considered outside of the constraints of our current forms. What we need to consider, then, is how we actually live in the world (keeping in mind the restraints of holy living) and determine which forms the four functions –worship, learning, fellowship, and mission—might take.

Worship and learning never exist by themselves in a healthy community; fellowship and mission will always accompany them. The vertical worship of God is completed by fellowship with our brothers and sisters (and, at a different level of intimacy, with those who do not trust Christ). Vertical learning is completed by horizontal mission, proclaiming the good news within and beyond the community of faith. If, in our practice, we only have one dimension—whether vertical or horizontal—we do not have Christianity; we have something else, which is a pale imitation at best.

Written in conversation with From the Ground Up: New Testament Foundations for the 21st-Century Church, by J. Scott Horrell

As a body, the Church performs the work of her Head, receiving his instruction and being his presence in the world. Maturation occurs as the parts fulfill their proper functions in the presence of proper and adequate nutrition. Work and Word are both necessary for health and growth.

As a community, the Church reflects the unity and diversity of God in the unity and diversity of her internal relations. Maturation occurs as she learns and works in the context of relationship. The parts must function together and for one another in order that the growth, which flows only from Christ, might occur.

As a storyteller, the Church tells the story of God’s grace and justice. It is a story of grace, for eternal deliverance and presence are gifts paid for by God alone. It is a story of justice, for those who reject these gifts by failing to trust the Giver will not be delivered and will not live in his presence. The will not do this forever. Maturation occurs as the members hear God’s story and respond by being and doing that story among themselves before the eyes of the world.

I am finding a decided inwardness arise in my research into the identity, function, and maturation of the Church in the world. While I believe that the Church must be salt and light, I am not finding that individual believers are to be so intentionally. Rather, individual believers function for the good of the body and for the glory of the Lord.

Perhaps focus on the missional function of individual believers has actually reduced the missional influence of the Church. Perhaps refocusing our efforts on body connections and properly functioning persons will produce the missional influence we so desperately need.

  • What does it look like to focus on the growth and health of the body for the purpose of communal work, reflection, and storytelling in the world?
  • What would we add to our programs?
  • What would we remove?
  • What would we change?

Related Site: Missional Tribe

The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus posts pointy graphics on a regular (as in more than daily) basis. This one caught my ecclesiologically tuned eye.

The first work pillaged for the rubric is The Church by Edmund P. Clowney.

In the midst of Clowney’s discussion of apostolicity and holiness as marks of the church, he makes the point that the church has the apostolic mission; it does not exist in this mission. By this, he contrasts partnership and commission with the liberal (his designation) notion that the church is composed of those who recognize their salvation (in other words, every one is saved, but not everyone knows it). I fully agree with his contrast and his conclusion—we have a mission. But it did raise a question concerning the missional church: How does being mission compare with existing in mission? I also note that none of these speaks of the church doing missions. This is an important distinction. This distinction is an important critique of the historic (evangelical) church, which tends to concentrate on doing missions.

So, might an important distinction be between having/being mission and doing missions?

Excerpt from “The Identity and Function of the Church in Lesslie Newbigin’s Missionary Ecclesiology,” my paper on Newbigin’s ecclesiology.

One might think of ecclesiology as an identity-function grid upon which specific expressions of church are practiced. The identity axis describes the unchanging essence of the church’s being. The function axis describes the overarching purpose of her existence. The essence of identity and function remain throughout time and across culture.

The ground of the church’s identity is the sovereign will of the triune God. Everything the church is flows from God’s decision to glorify himself by creating, redeeming, and glorifying a people for himself. Our very life is from him. Humanity receives its identity from the triune God. The church—the new humanity in Jesus—receives her identity from the triune God. The decision of God is therefore the ground upon which the church’s identity proceeds.

The telos of the church’s identity is Jesus Christ, the One who has ultimate authority. Ultimate authority is defined as authority that is trusted, rather than proved. Every belief system trusts an ultimate authority beyond which no proof is needed. Christians trust Jesus as the ultimate authority. Since Jesus is the ultimate authority, the only answer to the question of authority is the story of the work of the triune God in Jesus, told in the Scriptures and proclaimed through the ages.

The church’s function is grounded in her participation in the missio Dei, proclaiming the kingdom of the Father, embodying the presence of the Son, and following the sovereign grace of the Spirit. Her work in time and eternity, in witness and worship, flows from this participation.

The telos of the church’s function is a holistic praxis-theology determined by the ultimate authority of Jesus. Praxis-theology does justice to the nature of God and involves humans as whole persons in community and in history. In the biblical view, the human person is a single reality, consisting of soul and body; humans exist in the real world as real, whole persons. The goal is praxis-theology because humans exist as material-immaterial persons in community. The life of the body and the life of the mind are one. Humanity is whole at the individual and corporate levels. The life of the church ought to reflect this God-given wholeness.

BIBLIOGRAPHY (for the whole paper)

Goheen, Michael W. “”As the Father Has Sent Me, I Am Sending You”: J. E. Lesslie Newbigin’s Missionary Ecclesiology.” Doctoral Dissertation, Universiteit Utrecht, 2000.

Newbigin, Lesslie. The Household of God; Lectures on the Nature of the Church. London,: SCM Press, 1953.

________. Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1986.

________. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1989.

________. The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995.

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