Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Community Formation (3)

After posting (I ) the church as God's "building", I wanted to bring alongside the challenge of (II)the MISSIONAL CHURCH. With inevitable oversimplification, Craig Van Gelder usefully contrasts the corporate church with the missional church – the doing church or the being church.[i] He bases his distinction on the ways that these two churches view their own purpose. On one hand , the corporate church, embedded in the European version of Constantinian Christendom, understands itself to exist “as an organization to accomplish something , normally on behalf of God in the world.” On the face of it , a doing church sounds attractive. Wouldn’t we prefer to belong to a doing church rather than a non-doing church!

However , on the other hand , because of convergence in missiological circles around a mission theology related to the Missio Dei and the Kingdom of God , the missional church’s self understanding is: “that it is created by the Spirit as a called and sent community to participate fully in God’s mission in the world.”[ii] Instead of the doing church (a corporate model) that focuses on projects and programs emphasizing human vision and energy, the being church (a missional model) sees the world as the horizon. Its parameters depend less on themselves and more on God’s redemptive reign in Christ and empowering by the Holy Spirit. A new people is being formed who join in God’s triune mission. Worshippers belong together, as a city on a hill (Matt. 5:14), as light centripetally gathered into public worship, though with characteristics that when centrifugally distributed impact the world like salt (Matt 5:13).

The missional church seeks to emphasize the formation of a missionary community that lives in contrast with the world. It takes 1 Pet. 2: 9-12 seriously that a holy nation will live differently in the eyes of those around “conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles so that…they may see your honorable deeds.” Of course, modernity’s individualistic creed mocks such a possibility. Rather, it sponsors the corporate church , encouraging pious consumerism – as members choose which church to “attend” according to how it meets personal needs. Rampant individualism allows attendees in self-satisfaction to walk away from responsibility to brothers, sisters and neighbors. Its leaders are more concerned about adding numbers rather than building community - “more impressed by a church of 4000 people who have no clue about God’s character and expectations than by a church of 100 deeply committed saints.” [iii]

I see this missional model resonating with the biblical picture of God building his people, and it stresses the need for developing missional practices that enable people to be formed together. Do you see connections?

[i] Craig Van Gelder , “From Corporate Church to Missional Church: The Challenge Facing Congregations Today.” Review and Expositor Vol 101 , 3 , 425-449
[ii] Ibid. , 426.

1 comment:

Laura V. said...

Your last few entries came right after I caught some of the recent teachings by RC SPROUL on the Communion of Saints.

I don't think I ever really heard a teaching on that before, and I am not sure I completely understand it... Maybe I need to purchase the CD's and relisten.

What does "Communion of Saints" mean to you as it relates to today's saints and those from history?

We are actually in the process of "church shopping" (I am sure you can't STAND that phrase from what you just wrote). However, I am sure that the Sproul-Quicke 1-2 punch is no accident in my life at this time.

Thank you again for your writings