(2) Invitation to the Church.
If there is one thing that drives me crazy, it’s the assumption that the Church don’t matter and has no value. Actually, not only does this make me crazy, I get borderline aggressive and have been known to throw things. Some might suggest that I’m only passionate about the Church because I’m a pastor… and I guess that would be a fair suggestion. I certainly love the Church because my life is caught up within her. But I’m in love with the Church, and fascinated by all things related to ecclesiology, because Jesus loves the Church and has not only chosen her as his bride / partner (Eph. 5:21-27), he has chosen the Church to be his sacramental instrument to the world. The Church is a (primary?) means by which the world experiences the grace of God.
Carl E. Braaten, in Mother Church, stated that “we are now in a struggle for the soul of the church.” For anyone concerned with ecclesiology, that statement, which was published in 1997, obviously still has a ring of truth to it. Yet I’d also ague that not only are we in a struggle for the soul of the Church, we are in a struggle for the value and priority of the Church. When some Evangelicals elevated personal salvation at the cost of giving up the value of the collective community of the kingdom, the result was an individualistic understanding of salvation that left the Church’s role in the empty “take it or leave it” vortex of death.
Yeah, you read that correctly. Christ without the Church… salvation without the Church… the Holy Spirit without the Church… is spiritual suicide. If, as Donald Bloesch states, “the church is an anticipatory sign of the kingdom that is coming” as well as “the springboard and vanguard of this kingdom,” an invitation into the kingdom is an invitation into the Church which reflects the kingdom.
Now I find many of the criticisms that Millennials have about the Church to be relevant, as I’ve already stated, so we need to be realistic in regards to understanding that having a better sense of the Church’s “soul” matters. But we equally need to articulate for Millennials why the Church matters, and why Christian spirituality must include a deep commitment to the collective people of God. After all, post-moderns are said to have a strong value for community… so it makes absolutely no sense when our churches have such low emphasis on koinonia.
Fall deeply in love with Jesus and fall deeply in love with his people and the various ecclesiological expressions that exist in the world. Commit to the church and then cast a wide vision to those around you. Create generational ministry opportunities for the Millennials and post-Millennials, not to mention the Boomers and Gen. X folks around you, to experience the power of community, the power of partnership… the power of family.
(3) Invitation to Mission.
Speaking of the soul of the church, did you know that the Church actually exists for a purpose? While it’s no secret that many assume that the church exists for itself, to meet its own needs, this is antithetical to what Scripture teaches as well as in direct opposition to the historic way in which the Church has traditionally viewed itself.
I’m guessing that one of the reasons that the Church in the west has a tendency to lean inward is because we are often shaped more byAmerican culture than kingdom mission. Yet there’s a profound connection for followers of Jesus: they are empowered by the Spirit to collectively gather and scatter as the Church that is on mission. The Spirit ushers people into the Church, which then continues being sent to the world for the sake of God’s great mission of making himself known to every tribe, every tongue, and every nation. The purpose of the Church is mission and the goal of mission is worship.
In my experience, this is what is so easy to communicate to Millennials, who often lack purpose yet know that purpose matters. They, if we are to generalize here, have a desire and longing to be a part of something greater than themselves. What cause is greater than the cause of Christ? What mission is greater than the Mission of God? What work is greater than the work of the kingdom?
Because of this, there is, I believe, great opportunity in dealing with today’s sociological sub-groups. If Millennials long for purpose, the work of the Spirit in the Church offers the most engaging and exciting mission available!
Spirit, Church, Mission: Invitation to Opportunity
Take heart. The Church has not lost its power or voice. If anything, the current cultural challenges provide missional opportunities that the theology and practice of the kingdom are perfectly suited to engage.
But you and I need to understand that it’s rather valuable, not to mention pragmatically effective, to have the ability to articulate, cast vision toward, and seek after encounters with the Holy Spirit, the Church, and Mission. The Scriptures are full of examples, lessons, and stories where this takes place and we, the followers of Jesus, have a responsibility to invite the world to, as Psalm 66 states, “come and see… come and listen” to what God has done.
And not only is it what God has done, it is what God is doing… by his Spirit… through the Church… for his Mission.
This article originally appeared here, and is used by permission.
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