comes from Dave Black’s blog where he wrote the following on June 29th:
9:32 AMMuch is being written these days about the purpose of the church. Some (like Eric Carpenter) argue that the purpose of the church is to glorify God through mutual edification. I do not disagree with this perspective. But it seems to me that the emphasis in Reformed circles on the glory of God is rather nebulous. In my opinion, this definition is neither missiologically broad enough nor theologically deep enough.
As I understand Scripture, the church is to carry out the Missio Dei of the Triune God at both the micro (individual salvation) and macro (societal) levels, with a view to redemption, reconciliation, and social transformation. I recognize that many Christians today are starving for genuine koinonia and deeper relationships within the Body of Christ. Yet Jesus Christ defines His followers as those whom He has sent forth into the world. Thus, while it is good and proper to unpack the theological and ecclesiological significance of such texts as 1 Cor. 14:26, which speak of mutual edification as a goal whenever the church gathers, I think it is neither scriptural nor helpful to reduce our definition of “church” to the gathering. The ecclesiological challenge must drive us closer and closer to our original mission, not further away from it. An outward focus is critical, not optional.
The Book of Acts consistently emphasizes “missional hermeneutics,” and is clear that the Gospel is the Holy Spirit’s instrument for the formation of faithful witnessing communities that enjoy corporate life both together and scattered in the world. This same Spirit now works through believers to enable them to be Christ’s witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. To be sure, “church” is broader than the missional church. But the focus of God is the world, not the church. Thus, while calls for mutual edification are valid (and sorely needed), it does not help to make the overcorrection of emphasizing corporate discipleship at the expense of Trinitarian mission.
The only way Christ is presently incarnated to a lost world is through believers as they carry on His presence, His Word, and His works to a new generation. We are no longer citizens of this world but Christ’s ambassadors, sent to this world from another kingdom, operating in His authority and power. If we’re rightly connected to the Head in this way, it would be hard to imagine making the focus of the church the gathering rather than the going.
I thought these were some good thoughts and wanted to pass them along. My two passions in the Christian life tend to be the Bible and Cross-cultural mission so I appreciate such comments.