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Defining “Church”

posted by xscot mcknight

It is customary for the theologians to define the Church as a gathering where the Word is preached and the Sacraments performed. These are the two marks of the Church.

My own take on the discussion is that this isn’t enough. If Kingdom morphs into Ecclesia, then we need to add a third “mark”: a missional community. We don’t just gather to hear the Word and observe the sacraments, but we gather as a missonal community to witness to that mission and to strategize and prepare for further mission and to be formed through fellowship.

On this, see M. Volf, In Our Likeness, and S. Grenz, Renewing the Center, pp. 287-324.



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Bob

posted July 28, 2005 at 1:00 pm


The only statement I disagree with is “to strategize”. It smacks of us doing something for God when in reality it is Him working in His Church.Unfortunately, strategizing seems to be the foundation of most churches (small ‘c’).(Can you tell I’m interested in this discussion?)



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Scot McKnight

posted July 28, 2005 at 1:02 pm


Paul, too, was a strategizer. Read 1 Cor 16.



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noiseromantic

posted July 28, 2005 at 1:15 pm


What about this definition?The church is the people changed by and centered around Jesus of Nazareth, his teachings, and his death and resurrection, moving forward in light of that in service to the world, inviting others to join them.How can I improve it?



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noiseromantic

posted July 28, 2005 at 1:17 pm


Sorry, meant to post my name in that. I’m Lee Eddy and I greatly enjoy your writings, Scot. I’m trying to find your books here locally, but I need to order them it seems.And order them I will!My blog is here: http://noiseromantic.lifewithchrist.org



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Bob

posted July 28, 2005 at 1:36 pm


Can’t really argue Scripture with you, Scot, I’m out of my league but the only definitive statements I see in 1 Cor 16 seem to be about the collection of monies–a symptom of the organization/institutionalization of the church–a far cry from Acts 2 when “all was in common”.The rest are couched in “if it seems advisable”, “Perhaps I will stay”, “where ever I go”, “I hope to spend”, “if the Lord permits”, “if Timothy comes”.He knew he would stay in Ephesus because God had already revealed His work to him there.Our strategization today is much more of “this is what we’re doing for the next XX Sundays and how we’ll do it.”



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Virgil

posted July 28, 2005 at 2:08 pm


Scot, the American “church” is missing a lot of the aspects of what I believe the Church should be and should be like. I recently started to explore my Eastern Orthodox history. Being born and raised in an Eastern Orthodox Church I truly miss the many facets I experienced as a child.In Europe, the “church” IS the community. That is where people are born, baptized, live, get married, and die. The “church” is where you find a book with the name of everyone in town…the names of their parents and their birthdays.The “church” is where you go to cry when you have troubles…where you go light a candle to get light, or give light to someone else, where you go to get a glimpse of Christ. The “church” IS the New Jerusalem and the place where God’s living presence can be experienced firsthand.Not to be negative or critical – American evangelicals are falling quite short of the mark I believe.



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Scot McKnight

posted July 28, 2005 at 2:15 pm


Virgil,I’m a fan of Eastern Orthodox theology, but not a convert by any means. And one thing is clear: Kingdom of God vision is a long way from a hyper-individualist society such as we find in the USA. Tolerance and rights are important, though, and we live in a far more fragmented culture than your forbears. Which would you rather have?



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Jeremy

posted July 28, 2005 at 2:25 pm


This is my vision for the Body of Christ as it exists in the Capitol Hill community: to incarnationally live out of a missional, ecclesia community. The ministry I work for on the Hill frequently says we are not here to replace the local church (as a parachurch org), and while I agree with the basic premise, I’m trying to push us to simply by the Church.Thanks for this post and all of your others on the Kingdom of God. They have supplemented my own thoughts about my ministry on Capitol Hill and helped in my book project about the subject!be His,jeremy



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Jeremy

posted July 28, 2005 at 2:29 pm


One more thing…one of the most influential books in my life on this subject is a book by Chuck Colson called “Being the Body.” A simply wonderful, theologically centered book.Definitely recommend!jeremy



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Virgil Vaduva

posted July 28, 2005 at 2:35 pm


Scot, I understand that individualism in America would clash with the deep cultural penetration of Eastern Orthodoxy. This doesn’t go to say that the Eastern church has not given its theologians much more freedom than western churches. One can explore doctrinal lands that the west wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.I can’t choose one or the other. Perhaps post-modernism will help us find a middle road where we can all grow and become better Christians.



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Len

posted July 28, 2005 at 4:54 pm


I remember studying the Anabaptists while at an MB seminary. My old history prof had been raised in Russia and came to the US as a teenager.He was quite clear on the relation of the radical reformers to the mainline Reformers. The Reformers defined the church in the two dimensions you describe. To him, that was a “stool with two legs.. unsteady and unreliable.” Instead, the third leg was “and believers are discipled in the way of Jesus.”I don’t know if he would have seen “missional” as an equivalent, but certainly in the praxis of discipleship it would be true.



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Todd Hiestand

posted July 28, 2005 at 6:48 pm


I tend to like darrell guder’s defination in Missional Church:We believe that we are the church, that is, we are a community of God’s people called and set apart for witness to the good news of Jesus Christ. We are blessed to be a blessing. As the Father has sent Christ, so Christ sends us. Jesus Christ has defined us as his witnesses where we are. We believe therefore that the Holy Spirit not only calls us but also enables and gifts us for that mission. Our task is to determine the particular focus and direction of our mission. We are to identify the charisms given by the Spirit for mission. We have the responsibility and the capacity, through the Holy Spirit, to shape ourselves for faithful witness. Our purpose defines our organizational structures – which means that our mission challenges us to re-form our structures so that we can be faithful in our witness.Darrell Guder – Missional Church (page 236)In this, preaching and sacrament are part of that…but, like you said there is a more missional focus…



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Bob

posted July 28, 2005 at 11:18 pm


Our task is to determine the particular focus and direction of our mission. We are to identify the charisms given by the Spirit for mission. We have the responsibility and the capacity, through the Holy Spirit, to shape ourselves for faithful witness. Our purpose defines our organizational structures – which means that our mission challenges us to re-form our structures so that we can be faithful in our witness.Todd,How many ways can this quote be wrong? Gifts of the Spirit aren’t a “tool” that we have in the garage to use as we please. They are present as needed, when needed, for the duration needed.Strategizing by another name….



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Sivin Kit

posted July 29, 2005 at 2:31 am


I’ll just say Amen … and thanks.I do recall .. Luther did talk about the 7 marks of the church .. perhaps after the 1st 2 marks you mentioned, the other 5 are summed up in your 3rd Mark ? :-)Missional community … I’m going to mentioned this tonight in my small groups leaders training.. as usual, this was just in time for me!



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Scot McKnight

posted July 29, 2005 at 6:37 am


Thanks for these comments. Lots to think about for me.



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Todd Hiestand

posted July 29, 2005 at 8:35 am


Bob, thanks for your thoughts, however i think the key statement in Guder’s defination is “through the Spirit” which, for me says that all the “our” stuff in there is only done through the spirit. When Jesus said “go and make diciples…” I think there was some sense of “we need to do something.” of course, it is held in tension with God working through the community which can do nothing of its own. thanks for pushing back…there does need to be a sense of balance…



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Bob

posted July 29, 2005 at 9:43 am


there was some sense of “we need to do something.” This is bondage. A natural human reaction but bondage just the same. In Christ, you’re free from this.Branches don’t feel the need to bear fruit. Their connection to the vine yields fruit borne through them.The Spirit will compel us to action as needed. Woe to the man who does not respond when called–you’ll be called again…and again…and again.Andrew Murray’s Absolute Surrender is a great coverage of the work of the Spirit and our role.



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Kerry Doyal

posted July 30, 2005 at 8:29 am


BobAmen to John 15.Yet, I see in Mark 4 (the “Got Fruit?” story) a command to bear fruit / be fruitful. Yes, by the Spirit’s enablementYes, by graceYes, in His strength…But, a responsibility – not a burden – is put on us to bear fruit.I love the synergy / flow of Col. 1:29, which I see as a “I / we / He” – in a context of striving to bear fruit for / by God.



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