I hope my readers will indulge me a personal note. In recent months I have been recording, on my laptop, my memoirs for my family and a few close friends. This has been a fascinating bit of nostalgia, if not something of a surreal experience—that of seeing the hand of God at work fashioning my heart and mind, and equipping me to write the several books on what I describe as: missional ecclesiology, i.e., the probing into the purpose and essence of the church in the mission of God. What has been interesting is that this has always been provoked by much younger minds pressing upon me their own questions of about the what’s and the whys of God’s purpose for the church. The first twenty years of my role as a teaching-pastor were in church communities inhabited by university students. Those students could be relentless in not allowing me to get off of the hook, or to dodge their insistent questions.

The result of those years, and then these most recent twenty years of dealing with both some very gifted young adult friends, and with inquisitive seminarians across the country has been the writing and publishing of a trilogy, or three separate but inter-related books spelling out my answers to the three questions consistently handed me by real probing young minds: 1) What is the church? 2) Why is the church? And 3) Why does it seem to drift away for any self-consciousness about its role in the mission of God? They are written as a semi-fictitious dialogue with a composite young friend: Alan, whom I met in a coffee shop when he was newly into Christian faith and discipleship, and with whom I continued to have discussions over the ensuing years.

It has been fulfilling to me to put into writing the wisdom and experience that God has provoked in me, and which shared wisdom and experience I wish I had had access to when I began my sojourn in significant church leadership.

The books are: Enchanted Community: Sojourn into the Mystery of the Church (on the ‘what is the church?’ question; Refounding the Church from the Underside (on the ‘why is the church?’ question; and The Church and the Relentless Darkness (dealing with the church’s proclivity to drift back into the culture of darkness even though it may have begun well). These are all in print and available from Wipf and Stock Publishers, or from Amazon. I commend them to those puzzled or inquisitive about the church’s raison d’ètre.

What I have discovered is how mindless the church so often is as to why the church exists and how it is formed to fulfill its God-given design. This is a significant part of what has been behind these recent blogs seeking an alternative narrative for the church as it emerges into a new and different culture.

In brief: the church is to be the communal demonstration of God’s kingdom (or, better, God’s new creation) in: 1) its kingdom lifestyle—its ortho-praxis (essentially defined by the Sermon on the Mount); its relationships of true mutual caring and love; and as it is the missionary arm of the Holy Trinity/Trinitarian community (I attribute this telling definition to Miguez Bonino of Latin America). Then finally the church, eschatologically, is to be formed as a beautiful Bride for the Lamb of God (which dimension will some much needed depth to our understanding of the church).

Thank you for letting me share this with you. Fulfilling these purposes guarantees that the church will never be dull.

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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