Sunday, May 12, 2013

Prodigal Christianity (7) Church

The seventh signpost is the church as a place of community with Christ.
Fitch and Holsclaw discuss alternative views on the relationship between the church and the kingdom.

One view is that the kingdom does not come in fullness until Jesus returns in glory. The gospel of the kingdom is for the future, and the gospel of the cross is for now. The problem with this is that the Kingdom is over personalised.

This approach to gospel, scripture, and mission sequesters the kingdom of to the interiority of our hearts.

Because this gospel is about me, it can become narcissistic.
The alternative view pushes an understanding of the Kingdom that goes beyond the church.
The problem seems to be too much Kingdom and too little cross.
Fitch and Holsclaw discuss the incarnational approach of Hirsch and Frost.
Christians are to enter the world by identifying with the people around us, getting to know, understand and live in that context.
They say that “missiology precedes ecclesiology. Fitch and Holsclaw warn that this could separate us from Jesus by separating us from the church.

They say that we are not church planters, we are the church. Dave advocates,
Churches should send out three or more leaders (or leader couples depending on whether they were single or married) into a neighbourhood context to get jobs live relationally and begin the rhythms of life in Christ there. This would require a commitment to a place, humble living in a neighbourhood, and going to places on the margins, not the most affluent places where large churches already exist. It would require being sent as missionaries through a discernment process at a local church.
Fitch and Holsclaw list practices that shape a community people in this kingdom within a neighbourhood.
  1. Hospitality of the table and baptism.
  2. Proclamation
  3. Reconciliation
  4. Being with people on the fringes and with children.
  5. Fivefold ministry gifts
    When the apostle, the teacher, the evangelist and the prophet function together in mutual submission one to another in dependence on God, the authority of the Lord is made manifest in a community.
  6. Kingdom Prayer
These practices will create a different church.
Because of this submission to these practices, each one of these communities will necessarily be the humble, vulnerable and incarnational expression of God coming into the world.

Instead of a volunteer association sending well-trained professionals out into the world to do God’s mission, communities are shaped in a way that incarnates Christ in the world for God’s mission. Whenever such communities come into being, sin is overcome evil defeated, and death not longer holds power. The Kingdom is breaking in. This is what witness looks like, and we contend that these communities will engage the most difficult issues of our day. They will not shrink back.
These are good practices, but it sounds more like the church than the kingdom.

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