The small ‘c’ is intentional in church…you’ll figure it out.
On the one hand it is not an easy task to speak theologically about the church (small ‘c’ institutional/brick and mortar place or that non-church church that is very much the same thing even though it says it is not) and Christ.
On the other hand we act and speak rather cavalierly about these things all the time – let’s pick the difficult path shall we?
When we speak theologically about the church we are speaking of Ecclesiology. When we speak theologically about Christ we are speaking of Christology.
Now I say this can be difficult because one person’s Ecclesiology is not necessarily another person’s. In my world (Pete World), Ecclesiology and Christology are so deeply intertwined and overlapping as to be nearly indistinguishable from one-another.
In other places Ecclesiology and Christology are very different (although inter-related) things. In some places Ecclesiology is very much about how our brick & mortar churches operate, are structured and managed etc.
I think this is a mistake.
I think that if we see Ecclesiology as an extension of Christology in the sense that the Church, big ‘C’ body of Christ composed of all believers everywhere and united through the Holy Spirit (now see I just brought in another ology – Pneumatology) we come to a better place in our overall theology.
Christ is the Church and the Church is Christ. This is effected through the Holy Spirit. The Church is not a pastor, nor a collection of pastors. It is not a building, it is not a denomination, it is not a small group, it is not a program, it is not a missionary.
Inasmuch as the individuals who make all of these things up are believers – they are part of the Church – the visible, living, active body of Christ.
This, in my opinion, is a proper Ecclesiology.
We must think in terms of Christ and then in terms of believers bound together through the Holy Spirit. Out of this comes an Ecclesiology that is personal, community oriented and exceptionally Christ-like (at least in hope and theory).
So why do we care?
Well for one thing take a look at what we, our fellow believers and our churches look like when we act as if Ecclesiology is specifically related to our building, their administration, staffing and management.
Since the Church is literally the Body of Christ, active and alive in this world, a good exercise is to look to the Biblical portrayal of Christ and compare to the institutional church.
Let’s build a profile:
- According to varying bits of research more than two-thirds of the world’s millionaires are Christian.
- The average annual income for televangelism is estimated to be roughly $2.3 billion
- The Anglican church has an investment portfolio worth more than $6.7 billion plus $255 million per year in interest, $320 million in annual donations and $400 million in annual revenue from various events.
- The Vatican Bank lists it’s asset at $8 billion
- Add to these things land ownership, infrastructure (buildings, houses, vehicles, computers, phones, rugs, pews, sound systems, expensive LED signs, marketing, etc)
These things arise from an Ecclesiology that is infrastructurally based…not Christ-centered; not humanity-centered.
One could argue that these things are necessary to win and educate souls in the 21st century and it is unfair to compare the modern Church to the pre-modern Christ.
We cannot ask the question “If Christ lived would he have ________?” because it betrays a lack of faith in the fact that Christ did live and continues to live.
The real question to ask is, if the institutional church is the body of Christ why did He take such a u-turn in terms of practice?
Why did Christ start accumulating wealth and property? Why did He start building temples? Why did he start spending a lot of money on marketing, advertising, sound systems, LED signs, and more? Why did Christ start doing these things? Why did He stop going into the world and start asking the world to come to his buildings? Why does he support the death penalty but not abortion? Why does he often trumpet military might and conflict?
These all seem like odd choices for the one who claimed to have nowhere to lay his head; the one who had no property; no wealth of any sort; the one who destroyed the temple as it was now useless…you get the idea.
Questions are far more useful to us in our theological inquiry than answers are. We must ask more questions and consider the ramifications of the answers. If this is not Christ than where is He? What is He up to and how do we re-connect? Have we abdicated our role to a mindless, soulless institution in favour of the comfort of knowing we are paying others to do what the Spirit of God commands us all to do?