christ > mission > church
A couple of days ago I started reading ReJesus by Mike Frost and Alan Hirsch. It is a great book, and I would recommend it to everyone. The foundation of the book is basic, but highly imperative. To illustrate I will utilise the scraps of artistry I have at my disposal;
What we see here are three different areas of study in the discipline of theology. Ecclesiology refers to study of the church; its expressions and forms. Missiology pertains to the study of the mission of God and his people; their purpose and function in the world. Christology refers to the study of the person and work of Christ.
In my experience when Christians talk about what they need to do in the world, or what they need to change to be more effective, the conversation most often turns to ecclesiology, that is to say, the conversation ends up being about Church. What should we change? Is it boring? How can we make it more exciting/relevant/effective/engaging/worshipful etc. etc. etc.
Some Christians go beyond ecclesiology, recognising that their doctrine and expression of the Church must flow out of their missiology. “When we know what our purpose and function is then we can talk about the Church,” might be the definitive phrase for this type of thinking. This is admirable, and certainly a step in the right direction, though I think this is not going far enough.
Frost and Hirsch make the point, and I totally agree with them, that our ecclesiology must flow from our missiology, yes, but both must flow from our Christology. The authors write this at one point in their book;
Putting aside the issue of how missiology must inform ecclesiology …, we believe that Christology is the singularly most important factor in shaping our mission in the world and the forms of ecclesia and ministry that result from that engagement. There must be a constant return to Jesus in order to ascertain that we are in the Way. It is no good just revamping our missiology or inventing new cultural forms of ecclesia unless we have first and foremost related them to Christology. (p.43)
Indeed, if the book of Hebrews is correct, Jesus is the clearest, most accurate picture of God there is. If we want to know what God’s mission is in the world, and thus what our mission is in the world, we must look at Christ. If we want to know what our churches should look like, we must understand our mission, and to understand our mission we must understand Christ. Hence my diagram – Christology is the foundation of missiology is the foundation of ecclesiology. Truly, there is no Church without a mission, and there is no mission without Christ.
I think the call to engage in a deep Christology is challenging. The real historical Jesus was a world away from the pictures I have too often seen of a highly feminine Aryan man with long flowing mouse-brown locks embracing a lamb while sitting under a tree looking seductively at the viewer with his strangely non-Middle Eastern blue eyes. The Gospels portray a wild man, entering into dangerous territory throughout Palestine to battle the demonic, taking on storms, escaping assassination, driving hypocrites from the Temple and dying the death of a political insurgent. This man proclaimed the kingdom of God, the reality of God’s sovereign will being done on the earth as in heaven, and he lived it out in his ministry (See Luke 4:18-19 for a self-proclaimed program of Jesus’ ministry) . I think if we actually understood Jesus for who he was our understanding of both our mission and our churches would be horrifically different.
So let’s stop going on about ‘church’ in the 21st century. If what I’m saying is even remotely correct ‘church’ will happen naturally as we follow the Way of Christ.
Let’s get back to Jesus – studying him, experiencing him, following him.
Posted on December 11, 2009, in Mission, Theology and tagged Alan Hirsch, Christ, Christology, Church/Ecclesiology, Ecclesiology, Jesus, Mike Frost, Missiology, Mission, ReJesus. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.