Mission Precedes Ecclesiology

To be authentic, mission must be thoroughly theocentric. It begins in God’s redemptive purpose and will be completed when that purpose is fulfilled. The God-given identity of the church thus arises from its mission. This order of priority is foundational. Yet for some sixteen centuries Christians have been taught to think of church as the prior category and mission as one among several functions of the church.

Wilbert Shenk, Changing Frontiers of Mission, 7

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Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

4 thoughts on “Mission Precedes Ecclesiology”

  1. Hey Wess, this is something Alan Hirsch and I have argued over this (lovingly of course) 🙂 . I totally think mission is the driving heart of church but God has always desired a people to embody the mission. My take is John Yoder-esk, without a particular people to embody the gospel the gospel has yet to be ‘true’ to that place. That the gospel of the Reign of God can’t be separated from the manifestation of God’s reign which will always take a people living the mission and therefore about to invite others into it.

    What ya reckon?

    this will make us more than ‘theocentric’ is will make us centred on the God who rejects violence revealed in Jesus. (Imagine if this is what Christocentric ment in Quaker circles 🙂 )

  2. @Jarrod,
    thanks for the comment.
    I totally see what you mean and I think I agree with you but the way I’d explain it is that I do see mission as the primary function that still precedes ecclesiology because a) the incarnation precedes the church and b) God’s is always reaching out to people even if there is no church there to embody his love. I think we have countless of missionary stories that tell of people being ready to receive the Gospel upon hearing it. But I completely agree with you (and Yoder) that “without a particular people to embody the gospel the gospel has yet to be ‘true’ to that place.” I think these two things can coincide really. And I agree that neither one can be separated out now, but when we think of which came first, the egg or the chicken, we know that “God first loved us” and that the incarnation is God’s missionary act to humanity upon which the church is the resulting “missionary community” that continues to carry this act out (with the help of the Spirit).

    “Imagine if this is what Christocentric ment in Quaker circles” — I love it.

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