Helpful Tidbits for Organic Church Life                                              May 19, 2008
The Church is Created by the Spirit
My Reflections
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In August I'll be at Fuller Seminary serving as a teaching assistant in Dan Shaw's research design class...and I can hear it already! Hear what, you say? Dan's favorite catchphrase: Make it happen.
For Ph.D. work there's good reason Dan constantly, like a broken record, reminds incoming Ph.D. students to Make it happen: because if you don't, nobody else will.
This week, I was reminded that much of life is a Make it happen proposition, but the Make it happen motto has its limits, too. Jesus said, "I will build my church" (Mt 16:18).

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION/TOPIC: Toward a missiological ecclesiology
The Church is Created by the Spirit 
Excerpt from The Essence of the Church by Craig Van Gelder
VanGelder_Ess_2There is a duality within the church's nature which we must understand if we are to address properly the ministry and organization of the church. The church is God's personal presence in the world through the Spirit. This makes the church, as a spiritual community, unique. The church also exists as a social reality with human behaviors organized within human structures [i.e. "human community of persons in relationship with one another"]. But this human behavior, through the redemptive work of God, is empowered by the Spirit. This is the duality inherent in the church's nature.
Most Christians in North America have a distorted picture of church. We have a distorted understanding of the church's nature - its unique character as a community of God's people. We also have a distorted understanding of the church's ministry - its full expression of living as a community under God's reign. And we have a distorted understanding of the church's organization - how it is to structure itself to carry out its ministry consistent with its nature. We need to fundamentally rethink our understanding of the church's nature, ministry, and organization in our North American context.
We can best begin this rethinking by drawing on the insights of two distinct but complementary theological disciplines that seek to understand the life and ministry of the church. One discipline is the field of missiology - the study of mission. The other is the field of ecclesiology - the study of the church.
My Reflections

America is the epitome of the Make it happen mind set. We make deals happen, degrees happen, employment happen, and the list goes on.
In many ways the "pull up your bootstraps" attitude is completely biblical. Consider, for example, the ant. Declares Proverbs, "Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones! Learn from their ways and be wise!" (6:6, NLT)
Now, before I continue, let me be clear: I am for organization and hard work when it's appropriate. Of course, that implies that there are times when it is not appropriate.
Jesus said, for example, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain.... As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it" (Mk 4:26-29, emphasis mine).
Too often the ecclesia takes way too much responsibility wanting to Make it happen. To be sure, our hearts are in the right place, but to frank, our hearts are often misguided; Jesus builds his church, not us.
For this reason more and more theologians in the evangelical world are calling for a missiological ecclesiology. In other words, theologians and missiologists alike are coming to terms with this simple fact: the church is not a sending agency, it is a sent agency.
So, when it comes to mission, don't Make it happen. Instead, love the Lord your God with all that you are, love your neighbor as yourself, sow lots of gospel seed and then Watch it happen (or, if you're tired, apparently you can take a nap).

Hope this was of some benefit to you.

Traver Dougherty
The Banqueting Table