Based on passages such as Ephesians 2:11-22, God’s mission in Christ, at this time, is, first and more most, about being church, specifically a local gathered-church in a place*, that is being the new humanity, a distinctive community of people.
- Albeit the end is not here, but it has been inaugurated through the Spirit and, by that, church, again, a local gathered-church in a place.* Thus, the new social order (i.e., the Kingdom of God come, the new heavens and the new earth), although not finale, is present where Christ is, namely his body, the church (Ephesians 1:10; 2;10-22). This means that the contribution which and/or impact a church can have on this inaugurating new social order is itself to actually be a new social order.
- Lesslie Newbigin has pointed out that Jesus called and prepared “a community chosen to be the bearer of the secret of the kingdom . . . The intention of Jesus was not to leave behind a disembodied teaching. It was that . . . there should be created a community which would continue that which he came from the Father to be and do—namely to embody and announce the presence of the reign of God” (Gospel in a Pluralistic Society (1989), 133-34).
- Again, Newbigin affirms what I have been saying, preaching, and advocating concerning church: “The primary reality of which we have to take account in seeking for a Christian impact on public life is the Christian congregation. How is it possible that the gospel should be credible that people should come to believe that the power which has the last word in human affairs is represented by a man hanging on a cross? . . . The only answer, the only hermeneutic of the gospel, ia a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it” (Gospel in a Pluralistic Society, 227).
- “Jesus challenged the powers that ruled the world by deeds of justice and mercy. These were not marginal but central to his ministry. Therefore, since the church’s mission is in Christ’s way, ‘it is clear that action for justice and peace in the world is not something which is secondary, marginal to the central task of evangelism. It belongs to the heart of the matter’” (Gospel in a Pluralistic Society, 133, 137).§
*Place, not necessarily an address, but a geographic location small enough to encompass true community and life together in neighborly approximation.
†These reflections have been influced (or affirmed) by the book I am reading at the moment: The Church and Its Vocation: Lesslie Newbigin’s Missionary Ecclesiology.
§Michael W. Goheen, The Church and Its Vocation: Lesslie Newbigin’s Missionary Ecclesiology, p. 87.