Friday, October 26, 2007

The ZigZag Café

We will be convening here at the ZigZag café, Suisse, on Thursdays for conversation and dialogue.

I invite you to stop by every Thursday for the question of the day. Your thoughts and participation are most welcome. Pull up a stool, avec un café, un thé, ou un chocolat chaud, et un croissant, and join in here on Thursday at the ZZ café.

For today:

What role, if any, does the church play in God’s plan to renew and redeem humanity and the world?


Beyond Words said...

I wrestle with this one, Greg. No matter how much I want to believe Jesus is going to reappear and magically transform the world, I don't see God operating that way in Scripture. It seems it was always our commission, from the beginning in the Garden, to propigate Eden to fill the planet. More and more I'm coming to believe, as scary and counter to conventional wisdom as it may seem, that the Great Commission is really a recapitulation of God's original command to fill the earth with his image bearers. As we are restored to right relationship with him in Christ, the Spirit empowers and equips us to do that. Jesus has redeemed the world, and we are to transform it through him by making disciples--God's image bearers.

What do you believe?

Greg said...

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate your interesting and non-conventional thoughts.

As to what I believe. I guess it depends on how the church is defined, before it can or cannot be understood to have a role. I see the body of Christ having a role, but that seems more well defined in one sense, than the church. Those who are part of the body of Christ are in Christ, while those in the church, depending again on the defintion, may not be.

Sarah said...

Great question, Greg...Jonathan and I are currently hosting a home group for newcomers to our church. This week we asked the question: "What has kept you in church?" (Or for those who haven't been raised in church, "What brought you to church?") My answer to that question: I am convinced that we are created for community, both with God and with each other, and I believe that it is through the community of Christ-followers that God brings about his kingdom here on earth. I am convinced that "the church" (if defined as the body of Christ) ought to serve as bearers of hope in the midst of hopelessness, servants in a world full of entitlement mentality. We have the opportunity to be constantly telling the story of who God is and what He has done through the way we live our lives.

Greg said...

Thanks for the visit and your perceptive insights.

Mac said...

I wonder if Emil Brunner's distinction between church and ecclesia may be helpful. Perhaps this is similar to your distinction between church and body of christ. Brunner closes his book The Misunderstanding of the Church as follows:

"We must therefore be prepared for the possibility that it might be the will of God eventually to destroy the ancient churchly framework of the Ecclesia - as is now already happening - to complete it by structures of a very different order."

He continues:

"With or without the churches if necessary even in opposition to them, God will cause the Ecclesia to become a real community of brothers."(and sisters) page 118

Though this book was first published in 1952 it seems very timely and fitting for contemporary discussion of the church.

Greg I agree with you that before we can talk about the place of the church to renew and redeem humanity clarification of what we mean by church must be decided on.

Any feedback?

Greg said...

Thanks for the comment and the thought provoking quotes from Brunner. I like them and agree that they would seem to have an importance place in today's discussion of the church.

How about this? Maybe God's plan to renew and redeem humanity and the world is partially taking place through those in Christ and in the power of the Spirit, welcoming strangers, living spirituality, embracing the gospel, caring for the environment, and so on. Renewal and redemption happen irrespective of the church, should it be thought of as an institution, even though many (not all) who are part of the church are more importantly part of the body of Christ.

Mac said...

"Renewal and redemption happen irrespective of the church..."


I agree. So is the church(as opposed to ecclesia or body of Christ)necessary? If it is - in what sense is it necessary? Brunner referred to the institutional church as the shell for ecclesia.

So what continuity is there between the ecclesia of the NT and what exists in our day as church?

I will stop there for now. Any further thoughts?

Greg said...

The body of Christ may be what's necessary for the church as institution. Institutional church then may be necessary in one sense and not another. In our contemporary context IC does give some public, for better or worse, expression of God, and people may sometimes become aware of the possibility of God's existence through this.

I wonder if the continuity between NT ecclesia and today is the body of Christ and not per se IC.

Mac said...

I am finding this discussion very helpful because I am very conflicted in this area. I hope you don't mind a few more go-arounds on the topic. Here I will be perhaps too honest but here it is:

I am 52 and though not completely separated from IC, I am definitely distant to it at least in comparison to younger years, although I am typically there weekly.

I often feel bad about this distance but do not see me being immersed in IC activities like earlier years. When I try I feel horrible perhaps inauthentic because these activities feel contrived. I some times respond to my friends that I wish I could love the Church(IC) like they do but... I am not speaking from bitterness or hurt just a real existential turmoil about it.

So,if we are going to make a distinction between the body of Christ and IC in my day to day existence what is my obligation to the IC if any? Must I participate?

I hope I am not wearing you out on the topic.

Thanks so much for your helpful comments,time and consideration.

Greg said...

Seems to me that you can be involved with Christians in a variety of ways. Our call is to love and serve each other in following the crucified and risen One and that can be done in or out of the IC.

I'm very symphatetic to the existential turmoil. But then there's this. Feelings of inauthenticity may or may not be an indicator of whether or not there is value and credibility in doing or being involved with something. Surely, they are a factor, but they should not be the only, or the deciding factor. Engaging in dialogue with Scripture, others, and the whole of who we are is also essential.

Mac said...


Great answer. Thanks for taking the time and responding.

I would like to clarify my comment about inauthenticity. By this, I did not mean so much in relationship to my own subjective feelings as much as inauthenticity in relation to what I would understand to be the central issues of following the crucified and risen one.

Your comments have been extremely helpful and have given me much to think about.

I would also like to say how much I'm enjoying your book!

With appreciation and gratitude!

Greg said...

I appreciate your perceptive questions and the ensuing interaction that has taken place.

Thanks for the clarification about inauthenticity. Makes good sense.

Glad to hear that you're enjoying the book.