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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Gelder, C. (2000). The Essence of the Church: A Community Created by the Spirit. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books. 

Failing to understand the nature of the church can lead to a number of problems. Defining the church functionally - in terms of what it does - can shift our perspective away from understanding the church as a unique community of God's people. In pace of this , the church tends to become a series of ministry functions such as worship, education, service and witness. Defining the church organisationally - in terms of its structures - can shift our perspective away from the spiritual reality of the church as a social community. The church becomes a patterned set of human behaviours to be structured and managed. These approachs reduce the church to a set of ministries administered through management skills to maintain effectiveness, or to an organisation designed to accomplish certain goals. pp23

In developing a more full-orbed missiological ecclesiology, three aspects of church life must be defined and related to one another: what eth church is - its nature; what the church dos - its ministry; and how the church is to structure its work - its organisation. The interrelationship of the three aspects is clear. The church is. The church does what it is. The church organises what it does. The nature of the church is based on God's presence through the spirit. The Ministry of the church is designed to support the ministry of teh church. Keeping these three aspects in the right sequence is important when considering the development of a missiological ecclesiology. pp 37

The understanding of the church must start with an understanding of the kingdom of God. More specifically, it must start with teh announcement of the inauguration of God's redemptive reign in the person and presence of Jesus. The redemptive reign of God must serve as the foundation for defining teh nature, ministry and organisation of eth church. The church must find its core identity in relation to God's redemptive reign as introduced by Jesus in his announcement that the "kingdom of God has come near". pp74

Understanding the kingdom of God as God's dynamic, redemptive reign has profound implications for our understanding of the nature of the church. The relationship of the concepts of the kingdom of God and the church is at the heart of unraveling many of the problems associated with church life today. It is also central to a proper understanding of a missiological ecclesiology. pp 75

Key themes Jesus stressed regarding the character of God's redemptive reign:
This reign reflects creation design
This reign anticipates the new heavens and new earth
This reign defeated the principalities and powers
This reign was demonstrated in Jesus' life and ministry
This reign brings redeemed life to all the created powers
This reign anticipated the church as creation of the Spirit pp102

The core biblical images for teh church all develop a common theme ... the church is a social community, a community made up of people who are reconciled with God and one another. To be church is to be in reconciled relationship . To be the church is to be in active fellowship. To be the church is to live in interdependence with others. The church as social community reflects the social reality of the Trinity. pp108

The nature of the church is defined by the mission of God in the world
The nature of the church is the result of the redemptive work of Christ
The nature of the church is holistic in relating this redemption to all of life
The church exists as a social community that is both spiritual and human
The church exists as a full demonstration of a new humanity.
The attributes of teh church's nature determine the church's ministry. pp128

Those who make the cross the starting point for their discussion of redemption often find it difficult to see the bigger picture inherent both in creation design and God's redemptive reign as announced by Jesus. Starting with an understanding of the mission of God in the world provides a broader framework for considering the meaning of the cross. The cross is still central within this framework, but its purpose is understood in light of the broader scope of God's mission. Understanding the cross in relation to creation is critical to being able to grasp the full character of the church's ministry in the world. 130 ff

This book discusses the relationship between the nature, ministry and organisation of the church. What is critical is to establish and maintain this relationship in the right sequence. The nature of the church provides the basis for understanding the ministry of the church - the church is. The ministry of the church provides the framework for understanding the organisation of the church - the church does what it is. The organisation of the church provides the structures for the churchto carry out its ministry - the church organises what it does


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