1) Will we ever solve the ecclesiology problem?
To make headway in this area, Christians need to see that redemption fits into the larger picture of God’s eternal purpose to have the church. God’s masterpiece is the church (Eph. 2:10). By definition a masterpiece is unique. An artist only has one of them, and God is no different. Although He does many things, works in many ways, and accomplishes many things, only the church is God’s masterpiece. Understanding this should uplift our appreciation and regard for the church.
What happens after the cross? We need something more than individual growth and learning, a vague notion of doing God’s will, or changing the world around us. The Christian life involves more than looking back to the cross and looking forward to Christ’s second coming. Our present experience should go beyond redemptive thankfulness or kingdom suspense. This doesn’t diminish Christ’s great sacrificial love in dying for us. It just puts it in context.
Three verses help do this.
John 3:16- “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…”
Galatians 2:20- “…the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
Ephesians 5:26- “…even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her”
God loved the world, God loved each sinner, Christ loved the church.
In Ephesians, Paul connects redemption with the church. And he establishes one as procedure, the other as goal.
Christian teaching and practice should reflect this. I think the attitude many have today is, “Christ accomplished redemption and then left us here to figure out how to ‘do church’ until He comes back.” It implicitly places redemption above the church in God’s plan.
2) The mission of the church has to be understood as more than gospel and less than direct social transformation to be robust in God’s eternal purpose.
Properly understood, making disciples is a good start to the mission of the church. But if it is only understood as following Christ’s example or engaging/teaching others, then it is short. This again shouldn’t be divorced from the larger context.
Here are some questions to ask:
How does the mission of the church relate to and fulfill God’s economy? Is God’s eternal purpose merely to save sinners? If so what were Genesis 1 & 2 about? Were we created merely to be redeemed? Were we redeemed merely to reach out to others? What does the gospel entail anyway?
I think the mission of the church conversation needs to develop along these lines.
3) As Christians engage culture and attempt to redeem it, they must be careful not to incriminate themselves in the world.
I’m afraid that many Christians can’t define or detect worldliness. Or maybe some think it is a lingering concept of an older generation now out of touch with reality.
How do we balance “in the world” and “unspotted from the world”? Can culture ever become a snare or distraction? What does contextualizing the gospel really mean? What is sanctification and what does it look like?
I think viewing sanctification as an issue of experiencing the divine life is best, yet if no one knows how to experience Christ or that Christ indwells them and is not just at the right hand of God, sanctification will always remain a nice teaching with no real product. The only thing that can deal with worldliness is the divine life developing within us to make us dispositionally holy. The only thing that can save us from the rut of our own culture is Christ as our life and the church as our living. Both of these can exist within and simultaneously transcend culture.