Recent news articles have noted the decline in the percentage of persons identifying themselves as ‘Christian’ along with the significant decline in church attendance overall. I think, maybe, it’s time to take a step back and reclaim the study on the nature and mission of the church. The Greek word ekklesia (called out) is translated into English as ‘church.’ In the Greek is not necessarily a Christian term, but refers to any public assembly called together for some purpose. Thus, the church uses the term ecclesiology to refer to the study of the nature of the church in its God-given purpose, and missiology as referring to the study of the mission of God for his church.

I want to spend a few blogs attempting to, perhaps, helping us see more the essence of the church more clearly, with the purpose of removing any sense that a follower of Christ can be passive in his/her participation in the church and its worship times.[1] The times of worship are meant to refocus, refresh, re-evangelize, and encourage God’s people for their 24/7 engagement as “the missionary arm of the Holy Trinity. Both pastors and worshippers need to be keenly focused on this equipping by refocusing on God in adoration. It also refocuses all of us in our ministry to one another.

It is no wonder that Christian identification and church attendance are down. In the institutional church’s heyday in this country we had the ‘Blue Laws’ in force on Sundays by which all businesses, and much other were closed in honor of the Christian Sabbath. There really wasn’t much other to do, or place to socialize, other than the church gatherings. When those Blue Laws were suspended, Sunday became a day to sleep late, or go shopping, or join a running or bicycle club, … or whatever. Church and worship, at the same time, regained much integrity.

At the same time, that event provoked many new forms of the church that came into being to accomplish the authentic essence of God’s ecclesia and to be participants in its mission, and to do it very creatively. I will attempt in future blogs to work us through some basic ecclesiastical and missional basics, … just to refresh our minds and stir us to creative obedience. That’s a big order. Stand by.

[1] I have written extensively on this subject in books beginning with Enchanted Community, then Refounding the Church From the Underside, and then, The Church and the. Relentless Darkness. They are available from Amazon, or from Wipf and Stock Publishers over my name: Robert Thornton Henderson.

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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