In my two lectures (MP3) at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, I addressed the gospel and the church. But I must say this: GRTS, under the careful eyes of both President Doug Fagerstrom and Peter Osborn, know how to do things right. This was a first-rate conference for local pastors and students.
An element connected to all such events is meals and breaks. I must admit that my friend and fellow blogger, Ted Gossard, got the day started off right for me: he and Deb picked me up at the hotel and we all drove to IHOP where we had breakfast with some wonderful Covenant Church families in Grand Rapids. Wish it could have lasted longer, but have to say a big thanks to Ted and Deb.
Papers from different directions were given, and it was delightful to hear Ruth Tucker again. Her recent story about her departure of Calvin was on my blog recently, but she’s a specialist on contextualization and gave an excellent, engaging, and wide-ranging paper — as papers should be. (Far too many give narrowed specialist type papers.) Her husband gave an oral interpretation at the end that was very moving.
It was special today to hear David Turner talk about kingdom in Matthew, because David now has a Matthew-Lite commentary on Matthew (Cornerstone series from Tyndale), and a big one from Baker next year.
My focus was that the gospel of individualism deconstructs ecclesiology — if it is all about my getting right with God — and no church in the gospel at all — then the Church becomes unnecessary, giving pastors fits about why people see no need to do anything than volunteer or turning Sunday morning into consumerism.
My own contention is that evangelicalism has a “salus extra ecclesiam.” That is, if RCatholicism has taught “nulla salus extra ecclesiam” (no salvation outside the church), evangelicalism’s individualism has created a salvation without the church. I don’t see this lightly; it disturbs me deeply. What we need more of is a gospel that summons folks into the Church as the worshipping, fellowship, missioning Body of Christ.
I also think small groups — and I made this point in my second lecture — have deconstructed, in part, Sunday morning services. The emerging generation realizes that the best way to grow spiritually and to participate with one another in fellowship, worship, education, teaching, etc., is through a smaller group. What impact, in other words, will the near perfection of small group ministries have on Sunday morning services? Will it lead to a generation that wants the same kind of fellowship, participation, education, etc., on Sunday mornings? Or will it lead to ever more increase in numbers of house churches and emerging movement churches?