Friday, February 01, 2008

Living Well In The Emerging Milieu 4 (DMin)

This is my fourth post of the day (we had a snow day up here in the great white North). I thought I would finish off the posting of my DMin paper with the last two of the five implications for the Church. The question of the previous DMin posts was "How Shall We Then Live?" We looked at living incarnationally and simplifying our lives - and the third response was hospitality. The fourth response is that of living in unity as the body of Christ in our communities.

Unity and Christian Love

“Nothing in the past has been more detrimental to the plausibility of the Christian message than the destructively fanatical controversies among Christians. Perhaps the gospel of love cannot be expected to change the basic conditions of life in this world before the final advent of God's kingdom, but that gospel should be powerful enough to enable Christians to keep peace among themselves and to present their communities to the world as models of reconciliation. To be sure, controversy and division cannot always be avoided so long as questions of doctrine, questions of truth, are taken seriously. But controversy should not be dominant in the picture that Christianity presents to the world, nor should Christians today remain divided simply because their ancestors were divided by controversies in centuries past.” (A quote from Wolfhart Pannenberg. “Christianity and the West: Ambiguous Past.”)

One of the key manifestations of this love for one another is the movement toward seeing the church not as a local congregation but as the church of the city. We have become accustomed to view the Church as either the local church (a single church congregation), or as the Church universal (the worldwide body of Christ), or perhaps as the church in a nation (which sometimes becomes synonymous with Republican, “family values” ideals). Although the local church is vital for effective evangelism and discipleship it can no longer meet the complex needs of the city by itself. We have all but abandoned the parish or neighborhood concept as more and more people commute to church (which sometimes alienates the church from the very community that hosts it). Instead of co-operating at the denominational, national or global level, we need to begin to see the church becoming effective at the city level which requires a significantly deeper level of unity and love for one another. This is where transformation can be ignited. It is in the city church that people can begin to see the unified body of Christ effecting measurable change in a geographic area. The vision of one church in the city that meets in many congregations, is becoming a reality and a necessity.

The key elements that need to be set in place for the city church to become a reality are many but they must include: a functional unity of believers, a relational bond between pastors and leaders, the emergence of a city eldership (comprised of humble, servant leaders), the articulation of a clear vision for the city and a commitment to passionate, unified prayer. There are also problems that arise in trying to envision and accomplish such a process. Cities can be large and diverse.

Communication, language, administration and even transportation through the city are all challenges to be faced. Churches and Christians have a track record of competing for resources and people instead of sharing them. Unity among the many streams of the Church faces theological challenges. Establishing a vision for the church in a particular city is a daunting task. There are still strong vestiges of denominationalism and theological idiosyncrasies (resulting in isolationalism) that need to be overcome. And the time pressures faced by busy leaders leave little energy for a citywide focus. Our culture resists the movement towards a revitalized Christianity. There is a spiritual darkness blinding the minds of people, and there is a demonic oppression attempting to maintain strongholds that exert influence over many aspects of city life.

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