I my last interview with Bishop Larry Newineskin, he was quite provocative with his comment when I asked what he thinks of ecclesiology. His response, “I think every church should have one“, has turned the heads of scholars, theologians, nuns, and mega-church pastors alike. I’ve been bombarded with emails, letters, and bricks through my window asking for clarity form the Bishop. Minds great and small are inquiring to know what the great Bishop meant when he said; “I think every church should have one.”
I managed to find the Bishop after a long search hidden in an undisclosed location, penning his latest and great theological work; “How I Became Bishop and What that Exactly Means: A venture into the heart of a sharp, theological mind”
We pick up the conversation…
JS: Bishop, you intrigued many with your comment that you think every church should have an ecclesiology. Please help us understand, for the sake of bibles and church buildings, what you mean?
BLN: Right, yes….every church should have an ecclesiology…I do recall saying that to you.
JS: What does that mean?
BLN: It’s about the Trinity, silly!
JS: OK, Bishop…tell us more.
BLN: The church, you see, is about bearing the image of the Trinity.
JS: Wow, that’s profound. Tell us more.
BLN: So often our culturally acclimated churches develop a cloistered ecclesiology that uses Jesus as a pietistic role model that helps people stop swearing, drinking, chewing, and going with girls who doing. But in that they miss the whole mission of God, the Trinity. Of course, piety is a component or attribute of God, but it is only one of many. When we broaden our understanding of God we take into consideration that mission is central to who God is along with attributes of community, servant hood, mutuality, sacrifice, generosity, humor, partying, gratitude, interdependence and so forth. What happens is that we take the niceties only to neglect the necessaries to be a faithful church. So, some churches develop their structures to support a cultural makeover for people (surface transformation), but don’t teach believers their ontological new identity as missionary for the change of systemic injustice and proclamation that Jesus is Lord not only over private affairs, but in the public realm as well. If the church was more faithful to a Trinitarian image, she would look quite different and be a public, redemptive force and not just some institution that caters to the private affairs of individual spirituality. When the Trinity shapes us, it’s a public affair that claims the whole of life. And so much of this has to do with the twisted view of eschatology we discussed in our last conversation.
JS: Why do you think this misunderstanding by the church happens, Bishop?
BLN: psuedo-anti-interdenominationalistically speaking, it’s because the church has lost it’s zest and fervor for mission and focused its expansion efforts through a cloistered and culturally formed institution still bound in the Constantinianism fantasy of Church being in a place of privilege within culture. Rather than allowing the central aspect of mission to inform structures in our post-christendom context, the Church clings to Christendom ideas of institution and still fantasizes that people will come on a Sunday. Not so anymore. I’d bet my mitre and sacerdotal authority that in places where the church is growing rapidly in the West under attractional, Constantinian assumptions, ecclesiology is so entrenched in consumeristic impulses to the point of massive gospel reductionism. So it remains tacit that mission sould inform ecclesiology, and not vice versa as in love-centred mission we are bearing the most resemblance to the person and purpose of Christ as embodiment of the Trinity. Rather than mission being a satellite program of the church, it becomes the organizing principle of it and as the main focus is announcing and demonstrating the Kingdom of God…kind of like Jesus did.
JS: So, what does that look like here on earth, Bishop?
BLN: You’re asking me for a model, aren’t you, you little pragmatist.
JS: Uh, no, not really. I just want something to chew on a bit, I’m afraid I can’t fly as high as you do sometimes….and, o.k., you got me…I want a model.
BLN: In that case, for the hoi polloi like yourself, let me dumb this down a bit. When a church assumes a responsive posture toward the Spirit which is already “out there” and at work in the world, the church begins to identify those things that grieve God. It takes huge discernment and we need to learn how to pay attention in a world that stupidifies everyone with that devil, the television. But as the church responds to the Spirit, she begins to act justly and love mercy and gets mobilized around a band of disciples serving in local neighbourhoods. At that point, it will become clear how the church ought to set herself up to facilitate the expression of this new missional life. So the only advice I will give you here is this: Start little experiments and see what happens. Oh, and just do it! Oh, and it’s about discipleship as well.
JS: Thanks Bishop, I’ve learned a lot from you today. I’m going to go and start giving some of this stuff legs in my neighbourhood.
BLN: Good, somebody has to
JS: Cool, let me chew on all this valuable stuff.
BLN: chew on it…I’m not sure if I can repeat what I just said. Now let me go back to penning my greatest work.
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