“The focus of emerging churches on the ‘gospel of the kingdom’ as distinct from a ‘gospel of salvation’ has produced a new ecclesiology. More accurately, it has signaled a return to an ancient ecclesiology in which mission is integral to church (p. 91).”
I welcome any shift that places mission, broadly speaking, at the heart of what it means to be the Church. However, I’m not sure I agree with the emergent tendency that the authors go on to describe, “If a church chooses to position the kingdom before the church, the the other 90 percent comes into question, and an entirely different church emerges (p. 94).” While Churches who take mission to heart will certainly look a little different, I do not necessarily think it means 90 percent will be up for demolition. For example, Alan Creech speaks on p. 99 about the way buildings and professionalism create a deformed spiritual formation. I suppose I’m uncomfortable with any ‘ecclesiology’ that rules ourt such a large segment of the universal church (from Roman Catholicism to Anglicanism to Pentecostalism, and so on). Sure, our buildings and so-called professionalism can create problems, but it we truly hold the sacred/secular split to be bankrupt, then any institution – even the institutional church – can be redeemed for God’s purposes.
What I like most about this chapter is its emphasis on being what I call a committed community of mission. “In a culture in which casual relationships or contractual relationships are the norm, it is difficult to build relationships on deep foundations that can survive disagreements and disapointments. People are more prone to walk away when the going becomes difficult than to work through a crisis to the point where a new depth of understanding is reached.” When we’re in a committed community, like that described here we can live out our commitment to mission in powerful and creative ways, because we have the relational strength to keep going.
In the end, I agree with the emergent movement’s conclusion that we should shape our life as the church in accordance with the practices of God’s Kingdom inaugurated by Jesus. However, I do not believe a lack of ecclesiology makes up for the errors committed in the name of “Church” over the years. I also wonder if emergent churches, as described in this book, can be missional on a large scale. I wonder.