For my Gospel, Culture, and Church course this past week, we had to read the opening chapter of this book on the Church as mission, rather than seeing the Church as something that does mission. We also had to read some mind-blowing pages from Hans Kung’s epic work The Church. It got me thinking a lot about what precisely the “church” is and how it is that thing. I just wanted to share some disjointed thoughts today.
Throughout the readings, the (perhaps over-used) term “Being in Becoming” kept coming to mind. (For my more philosophically-trained friends, forgive me if I’m simplifying this term too much; My main exposure to this has been cursory, in the context of the Trinitarian theology of Karl Barth and how he describes God).
In others words, the Church’s very Being is in its efforts to more faithfully “Become” what it is. It is not and cannot become a static entity into which we invite people. As we are caught up in the missional plan of the missional God, it propels forward into places where the old notions of Christendom and privilege are not relevant and are shown to be the anemic frameworks they are.
As we see the various dialectics within which the Church will always have to fight to stay, we see that it is within the Church’s active struggle of Becoming the Church that it is, in fact, being the Church.
The idea of “missionality” is all over the place in contemporary western Christian thinking. Too much. Everything has that term “missional” tacked onto it. It is, in effect, the corporate buzzword of today’s American Church.
But it’s not so simple. It takes a damned fight to find the core of what it means to be faithfully missional in today’s world. Being in social work, everyday I stare at the cultural and societal chaos caused by power and privilege run amok/. The result of various individuals and institution believing they were fulfilling a societal mission–both secular and religious–when they were really just imposing their own assumptions of cultural, societal, and even theological privilege on those receiving this missinoality.
This can happen even spiritually and–more provocatively–theologically. “Christendom”–viewing the Church in terms of societal and cultural privilege and power–can get into our ecclesial water and affect us subtly and deeply, even affecting how we come to doctrinal and theological conclusions! Seeing the Church as a societal institution that needs to seek (and impose) power and become the most societally (and politically) privileged entity in the country can actually leads us to theological error.
When it comes to this idea of “mission”, Christendom has led the contemporary church to see mission as a part of what the Church does, rather than retaining the truth that mission is precisely what the Church is!
We are God’s missionary solution to address all that’s broken in the world. Further, he has not simply given us this mission and said Good luck. Rather he is the God who Himself is on mission, and he invites us to join him in that mission as his own arms and hands and feet in this mission.
I’m starting to think that it’s by moving mission back to its proper centrality, and then properly wrestling with it, that the Church will actually be the Church. It is dangerous, hard, and terrifying work, but it’s by the Church struggling to Become the Church that it actually is the Church.
Have a good weekend and a happy Lord’s Day.