Jeremy Larson – Purgatory
Let’s try to make this short and sweet. Big words like “ecclesiology” have a way of turning people off. And the church has often turned people off. And talking about the church can do the same.
I share Belcher’s opinion that neither the emerging church (or churches trying out new forms of church) nor the traditional churches have a rich enough appreciation for what it means to be the church. However, I think the conversation needs to move away from simply talking about structure or praxis and towards ontology. Or in other words… what does it mean to be the church?
Not that churches don’t need to be challenged to re-look the way they approach their life together as a church. They should. In my opinion churches need to be constantly reminded that they don’t exist simply for themselves as an institution. That they move from an inward focus to an outward one. The ways we approach evangelism or church discipline or discipleship or any other host of issues need to be examined and when necessary adapted. However, those things don’t necessarily define what a church is. They are what we do; not who we are. And although sometimes mistaken for the same thing, it isn’t.
A few years ago, the church I’m involved in re-looked at who we were and who we were hoping to become, and here’s the statement we came up with…
We exist to mobilize a racially-unified family of God, called out as the presence of Jesus in our world, to pursue His mission: all people reconciled to God.
Now, I realize that even this well-thought through statement doesn’t plumb the depths of what it means to be the church. And while there might be a word or two that I’d go back and change, there is so much that I appreciate about it. Each phrase matters. All the important pieces are there. It is a good length.
But most importantly it is right, and I have the sense that those of us who are most deeply invested in our local body believe it is right. It is a statement about who we are (becoming) as a church. And it is one that actually guides our practice and to a certain extent our structures.
This is going to sound a bit trivial, but… I love this church. I really do.
It isn’t perfect. Nor are we pretending to be.
Ok, so much for short. But it is sort of sweet.