In this series on whether or not it is wise for local churches to cobble together a doctrinal statement on the basis of creeds and confessions, we have also been looking at how Emergent Village has fashioned a “belong to us” statement that is both theological affirmation and praxis exhortation all at the same time.
Doctrinal statements, so I think, fall short of our task: a missional task. (Franke’s book does a nice job of making this connection often.) Here we have a robust statement that affirms the missional task of the Church: and missional transcends evangelism and social justice. It is, as I will articulate in Embracing Grace: A gospel for all of us, something that concerns all of us and all of us: each person and our whole world, and at the same time every part of each of us.
Here is the third “article” from Emergent Village:
3. Commitment to Godâ€™s World:
We practice our faith missionally â€“ that is, we do not isolate ourselves from this world, but rather, we follow Christ into the world. We seek to fulfill the mission of God in our generations, and then to pass the baton faithfully to the next generations as well. We believe the church exists for the benefit and blessing of the world at large; we seek therefore not to be blessed to the exclusion of everyone else, but rather for the benefit of everyone else. We see the earth and all it contains as Godâ€™s beloved creation, and so we join God in seeking its good, its healing, and its blessing.
* To build relationships with neighbors and to seek the good of our neighborhoods and cities.
*To seek reconciliation with enemies and make peace.
*To encourage and cherish younger people and to honor and learn from older people.
*To honor creation and to cherish and heal it.
*To build friendships across racial, ethnic, economic and other boundaries.
* To be involved at all times in at least one issue or cause of peace and justice.
The operative word in this article is the word missional.
This means that Christians, as Emergent Village understands them, are to be people who love others and the world in which they live as an expression of God’s love and as an extension of God’s love. They live in the world and the look, they listen, they learn, and they link to their local world — and so extend God’s embracing grace that unleashes a cycle of embracing grace.
There is rhetoric here that seeks to rectify the “in” vs. “out” mentality of lots of evangelicalism, where “mission” is seen as evangelising others to become “in” people instead of “out” people. Emergent Village sees the process as a missional relationship of love: Christians are to love other not just because they are Christians out on a mission to get the “out” folk into the “in” folk, but because love is of the essence of God. I see an attempt to rectify “love purely for the sake of evangelism” instead of “love purely because love is right.” In other words, if God’s trinitarian essence is love rather than “getting love back” from the other persons of the Trinity, then the Christian is to love because love is the essence of what Christians are and are to do and be.
There is also an attempt at comprehensive love and relationship: with neighbors, enemies, ageless relationships, creation and the knocking down of boundaries between people.
Finally, there is a commitment to involvement in one issue of justice in our world.
All of this because there is a conviction that this is God’s world and we are called to dwell in it for God’s glory, for the good others and the world, and we are summoned to make this world a better place.
What is perhaps most significant here is that all of this is seen, not as a tack-on “after I believe” but gospel work itself. Pretty serious challenge.
And, it is a challenge for many of us to take a good look at what our local churches are saying in their doctrinal statements and any other kind of statement. Many churches, so I think, are beginning to take their “mission” and their “vision” as central to who they are and what they are doing and believing. Emergent Village gives a template for many to use in drafting a fuller articulation.