Ben Sternke is one of the Midwest Missional Learning Commons co-conspirators (a word I got from Bill Kinnon). His recent post nailed what some of us have been trying to say about the ecclesiology – missiology question. This is the last post I’ll make on this subject for a long time, I promise, but Ben did such a great job of summing up what I’ve been trying to say (saying it better that I did) that I just had to post some quotes from his fine post.
In all the deconstructing and rethinking of church practices that seems to be going on today (a good thing in and of itself), it seems that sometimes we get to the point of thinking about whether God really needs the church to fulfill his purposes for this planet. To put it slightly more theologically: How does the church as the people of God fit into a missional theology?
Ben then quoted himself from a previous post about Simon Chan. He said
In the first chapter of Simon Chan’s Liturgical Theology, he asks the question of whether the church is to be primarily understood as the instrument through which God will accomplish his purpose in creation, or rather the expression of that purpose itself. Is the church here to work for the fulfillment of God’s purpose in creation, or is the church itself the fulfillment of God’s purpose in creation? If the church in the instrument of God’s purpose, then we understand it primarily in functional terms; what it does. But if we understand the church as itself the expression of God’s purpose, we look at the church in ontological terms; what it is…
But what if the church is both the expression of AND the instrument of God’s purpose in creation? Which seems to be what Dave Fitch is saying when he argues that ecclesiology IS missiology and vice versa. In the end, I think that any paradigm that seeks to place missiology “ahead of” or “prior to” ecclesiology (ala Hirsch) is problematic, because the church always ends up being provisional and/or optional.
To put it bluntly: Yes, God needs the church.
Read the wholepost here.
This was all provoked by my interview with Frank Viola this past week. Thanks Frank and good to connect a little bit with you.