In my previous post on missional reading of scripture, I mentioned in a reply to a comment that someone had written that “our calling as the church is to have the missional ecclisiology of proclaiming the eschatalogical significance of the in breaking of the Kingdom of God.” And the response I got off the blog post was that it was a bit heady of a response. Now this response was to a colleague who also was at the same conference I was at. In fact, you can read his summaries of day one and day two by clicking on the links.
Now, I like to quote an old prof of mine and say that “Good theology should smell like fish and have dirt between its toes.” In other words, good theology should be approachable and understandable. So I’d like to unpack a bit of what I wrote in the comment section.
What in the world did I mean by a missional ecclisiology? Well, I’ve defined missional before. It’s theology of being sent. It is that everything in us as followers of Jesus is the fact that we are sent out as the church. As the Father sent the Son, so the Son sends us, empowered by the Holy Spirit. God is a sending God. He sent his people to go and proclaim His message.
Ecclisiology is the theology of the church. What does the church look like. How should the church act. What should the church be like. So a missional ecclisiology is just another way of saying being a missional church or as I like to say church is a verb. We are communities who are sent out into the world. Darrell Guder, author and editor of a couple of books on the missional church said at the conference that “The mission field has come to our front door and it is a hard and difficult field.” As communities of believers we are sent out into this mission field that has come to our front doors of the church. It is the Monday morning mission.
So what about the eschatalogical in breaking of the kingdom of God? Eschatology is the study of the end times (not scatology, that’s something completely different). In other words, eschatology is the study of when Jesus comes back: What will that look like? What will that be like? How will it happen? The Left Behind books are an attempt (a bad one at that I think) to look at eschatology. Eschatology is basically wanting to know what it will be like when Jesus comes again. When we’re eschatalogical, we’re focusing on the end times.
Now, from a reformed point of view (yes, I’m getting nerdy now), we live in what is called the already/not yet. When Jesus died upon the cross and defeated death by rising from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit, the kingdom of God came. The kingdom of God (which God has promised to establish, the kingdom which he promised to rebuild after the debacle at the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve went against God) has come, but it will come in its fullness when Jesus returns in his glory and power. And then it will be like the Garden of Eden all over again. Dude. Awesome stuff here.
But it’s more than just that. Last Christmas, I preached a sermon on Jesus’ birth, calling it an act of war upon Caesar and the rest of the rulers and false gods of this world. God, in Jesus (Jesus being God in the flesh…dude…complicated for a short blog, I know, but track with me here), established a beach head here on earth. God began in Jesus the beginnings of a war against the enemy, the devil, Satan himself. Not just that, but he began a war against Sin. Ever since Adam and Eve betrayed God by wanting to be like Him and doing what was wrong, ever since Sin entered the world, God has been at work bringing his people back to Himself. Wow. And its culmination is found in Jesus who came to earth to wage this war. Who valiantly went to the cross to die for us.
And in that moment, when death was defeated, the enemy, the devil was defeated, the kingdom came. And we, as the church, as a community of believers, live this in breaking of the kingdom of God. We live out this kingdom in our lives together as the church. Hence, church is a verb. It is something we do. It is something we live.
And we live in the already/not yet. The kingdom has come but will come in its fullness when Jesus comes back. So we live in this tension between the two. We live in this tension between living out the kingdom today and yearning for when Jesus comes again. And we live this out as a community of believers who are missionaries in their own back yard.
So what does this have to do with today? How can the rubber meet the road? How can this be applicable to each of us? That’s for another blog, I’ve hit over 850 words already.