The Church And Its Mission: Part 3

We understand that the Scripture serves as the basis for our understanding of the church and its mission. We have already established that if a separation is allowed to exist between our study of Ecclesiology and our study of Missiology, the result is that neither achieves its purpose in the earth. If the understanding of church is not informing our understanding of mission the church will forever remain disconnected from the mission of God. There may be limited forays into mission, occasional attempts, but there will always exist a divide between the local church and its foreign mission. We will continue to allow there to be "mission-people" and a "non-mission-people". The church will function as one entity under one set of standards and mission will always be no more than an adjunct activity of the church carried out occasionally by a few.

So, let us revisit my pastor friend's statement, "We want our Missiology to be a reflection of our Ecclesiology". While I completely agree with this statement, it poses one very obvious question. What if our Ecclesiology isn't biblical? What if the way we view the church, the way we understand its function isn't biblical? I mean it is possible that characteristics of our church are non-biblical.

What if our Ecclesiology isn't biblical?
We look at the church throughout history and certainly not every church, everywhere has been a biblical representation of the Body that Christ envisioned. This begs the question, among those that are more or less biblical, which model is correct? How are we to know how to do church, what church is? If our understanding is influencing the way we carry out mission, it is extremely important that our understanding of the church is right--and by right I mean biblical. We have to acknowledge that there may be aspects of the church that are not biblical. Beyond this, there are many aspects of the church that may not be antithetical but they are not necessarily fundamental either. We could refer to these characteristics that define a church as being extra-biblical, they are not non-biblical but we have no Scriptural support for them as foundational for the church. They are the particulars. We often think of church in terms of our traditions or our own cultural expression, limited by our perceptions: culturally, generationally, etc. Again, the church may take on many forms and indeed has taken on many forms down through history without becoming non-biblical. However, if we believe that our Missiology is a reflection of our understanding of the church, we readily see that it is imperative that our understanding of the church as far as it is influencing our practice of mission must be biblical and everything that is extra-biblical is going to be of little use in informing our actions in mission. Occasionally our practice of mission reflects non-biblical perceptions of the church but more often, we see extra-biblical perceptions of the church hindering the birth and growth of a truly biblical expression of the church among a people. Our tendency is to export our particulars, often because we only understand the church from our limited perspective. However, we really don't understand the church. We understand, or at least we think we do, in our context but when we attempt to multiply the church elsewhere more often than not our focus is on the particulars. We then begin with a less than biblical expression of the Church and what would certainly be a failed cultural expression of the church. The result of this is that we transplant a very unnatural expression of the church.

Ecclesiology needs to begin with a Biblically minimum understanding of the church
This new church is lacking the living DNA of the Spirit and will never take hold in the cultural soil of the new community. The church that is established will never serve as a local representation of local believers gathering in community to worship, pray, grow in faith and reach out. So we must begin by looking to Scriptures to inform our understanding of the church as it was created, as it existed and even as it was contextualized throughout history as a model for us today. This will help us establish an understanding of what is a biblically-minimum church and serve as a starting point. Beginning with this understanding, we can then allow the church to take on differing forms, even extra-biblical characteristics that represent the context of the people that make up that church. So think of the church not as something you export or replicate but something you plant and nurture. Our Ecclesiology needs to begin with a Biblically minimum understanding of the church and strive to contextualize the church from there all the while never compromising the biblical standard set by Christ. In this way, our Ecclesiology can safely inform our Missiology because both are being informed by the Scripture.

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"Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell, I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of Hell."
- C.T. Studd
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