A Deep Gaze Into Missional Theology and The Eschatological Gleanings From Them ~ Pt. #5 ~ Fun Houses and the True Identity of the Ekklesia

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As a boy I used to love going to the local fair and exploring the fun houses and the glass maze. I would sometimes spend hours feeling my way through the glass and mirrors till I reached the top of the house and the maze broke way to a large open room filled with funny mirrors. They were curved and warped so that when I stood in front of them they would distort my image and I’d look really short and fat or tall and super skinny. I’d laugh with my friends, point at their funny images, and strike poses for my own amusement. Looking back, there was a certain degree of reality within those moments in the fun houses. Paul shares with the church in Corinth that, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.”[1] He was articulating that as we grow in the maturity of Christ, we do not fully comprehend all that the Kingdom of God wishes us to see and as such we need the relationship of likeminded disciples around us who can be, “a sign, instrument, and foretaste of the reign of God.”[2] This is the birthplace for ekklesia.

Ekklesia being a Greek word comprised of two sub-words; Ek which means “out”, and Klesia which means “called”. Together they mean the “called out ones” and it is often referring to the church.[3] The church therefore is found through the binding together of disciples as they naturally form covenant bonds of communal mutual rhythms in life. As Wright articulates it, “it comes about as people worship the God in whose image they are made, as they follow the Lord who bore their sins and rose from the dead, as they are indwelt by his Spirit and thereby given new life, a new way of life, a new zest for life.[4]

The role of the church is not in its own service but rather for the benefit of the whole world. “The power of the gospel lies not in the offer of a new spirituality or religious experience,” Wright continues, “not in the threat of hellfire (certainly not in the threat of being “left behind”), which can be removed if only the hearer checks this box, says this prayer, raises a hand, or whatever, but in the powerful announcement that God is God, that Jesus is Lord, that the powers of evil have been defeated, that God’s new world has begun.[5] The expression of Jesus as Lord can of course be diverse and numerousas it spreads across the imaginations and creative landscapes of Jesus’ followers.

In his book ‘The Mission of God’s People’, Christopher Wright points to a recognized loss where the church in the last course of history has seemed to of misplaced its understanding of being the “sent ones” into the world and instead interpreted election to be about self gratification and aggrandizement. Closing in my thoughts to the understanding of the church’s identity I’d like to share his prophetic insight as we reimagine what it means to be God’s true ekklesia and “sent ones” to the world. He writes:

"Election of one is not the rejection of the rest, but ultimately for their benefit. It is as if a group of trapped cave explorers choose one of their number to squeeze through a narrow flooded passage to get out to the surface and call for help. The point of the choice is not so that she alone gets saved, but that she is able to bring help and equipment to ensure the rest get rescued. 'Election' in such a case is an instrumental choice of one for the sake of many.

In the same way, God’s election of Israel is instrumental in God’s mission for all nations. Election needs to be seen as a doctrine of mission, not a calculus for the arithmetic of salvation. If we are to speak of being chosen, of being among God’s elect, it is to say that, like Abraham, we are chosen for the sake of God’s plan that the nations of the world come to enjoy the blessing of Abraham (which is exactly how Paul describes the effect of God’s redemption of Israel through Christ in Gal. 3:14)."[6]

[1]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Co 13:11–12). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] Newbigin, Leslie. The Open Secret: An Introduction Into The Theology of Mission. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995) Kindle LOC #1520

[3]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_4u8TRorUw

[4] Wright, N. T. Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, The Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. (New York, New York: Harper Collins, 2008.) Kindle LOC #3591.

[5] Wright, N. T. Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, The Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. (New York, New York: Harper Collins, 2008.) Kindle LOC #3510

[6] Wright, Christopher J. H. The Mission of God's People: A Biblical Theology of the Church's Mission. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2010) Kindle LOC #1089.