January 15, 2010

the Church

Describe the nature and mission of the Church. What are its primary tasks today?

If the sacraments call us into the world, the church is the “us” that is called. In my previous paperwork, I talked about the church being the place where we come to know and begin to embody the Kingdom of God – but as I have grown in my understanding of the church, I realize more than ever that the church is not a place, but a people. It is the community in which we first participate in the means of grace and the Body of Christ that sends us forth in mission to the world.

I would heartily agree with our denominational vision that we are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world – but how we define “church” dramatically changes how we understand that mission. If the church is a people, then our task is not necessarily to get someone to join a particular congregation, but to invite them into the journey of faith – a journey that may never take them inside the four walls of a traditional congregational building. They may worship God with other believers in a house church, or study the bible in an intentional community of faith that meets at the local bar, or be a part of a new monastic community.

As I have been in conversation with emergent and missional theologies, I have begun to drawn a distinction between the church and the congregation, the church being the fullness of the body of Christ – not limited to a building, or a congregation or even a denomination. That is not to say that the congregation and denomination are unimportant. They are the institutional partners that provide structure and support for the work of the church in the world. But I think what is key is that the mission of the church lies outside of the bounds of any particular congregation or denomination. As I have taught this in my own congregation, we remember that the church is to embody the Kingdom of God in all that we do. We are the church when we are at work, when we are at play, and we are the church to each and every single person that we meet. We carry with us the faith, hope, and love that have sustained us in our journey and we invite others to be travelers on that journey with us.

Photo by: Jascha Hoste

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