Thursday, January 14, 2010

Can you help me develop my theology?

I am trying to work out which way we should go as a church when it comes to children’s and youth ministries and the cross cultural question. One of the issues that always comes up in this discussion is the issue of the homogeneous church (Tim Chester has discussion about the issues involved) :

John Stott is cautious when it comes to the homogeneous church:
“… although there are circumstances in which a homogeneous church can be a legitimate and authentic church, yet it can never be a complete church in itself, since it cannot reflect the universality and diversity of the body of Christ. This being so, every homogeneous unit church should take active steps to broaden its fellowship, in order to demonstrate visibly the unity and variety if the church.”John Stott, The Living Church, IVP, 2007, Pg 42
John Woodhouse approaches the issue differently and by implication appears far more ready to support the homogeneous church when he argues that:
“You are all one in Christ Jesus”, Gal 3:28). This heavenly reality finds expression in this world as the Spirit brings Christians together in various localities (1 Cor 1:10). In other words the unity of which the Christian gospel speaks applies first to the spiritual unity of all, from every place and every age, who are members of God's household. It applies second to the relationships in the local gathering of Christians. ...The question is, how should we express our unity with believers beyond our local congregation? ..The answer will vary according to circumstances.... However we will want to express our love and unity with others to the extent that it is feasible.
John Woodhouse / Briefing #284 / May 2002
While their ecclesiology is different, in both instances it appears there is room for the homogeneous church and that there is a desire to find active steps to broaden fellowship beyond the local church/congregation.

My dilemma is I feel like these positions truncate the whole discussion. Having accepted some role for the homogeneous church and established the need for fellowship beyond the local congregation we quickly move on to a discussion of pragmatics - i.e. what do “active steps” look like? This would be ok if the discussion of pragmatics continued a conversation with theology. It is like we disengage our theological brain. I know I have been guilty of this and am interested correcting this and developing my theology.

So before I continue with the exploration of actives steps, just wondering what other theological resources you would bring to the discussion?


Chris said...

I was chatting about this last week with a returned misso, & had my single real thought after the conversation ... As ever.

Eschatology is essential, I think. Because of Christ, we are all one in Christ. Yet this is not fully visible or possible until he returns.

Until this, it's the nature of our waiting to see churches that speak one language, or are richer/poorer because of their area, or whatever. It would be dangerous to be 100% content with this current church life - we need theologically-driven longing for Rev 7 to be revealed to the whole universe.

So, I guess, a very strongly HUP-driven church would benefit from regular teaching on eschatology. (As do we all.)

Is that the kind of thing you're asking for?

Anonymous said...

three quick thoughts:

1. the first-order ("spiritual unity of all") second-order ("relationships in the local gathering of Christians") found in the JW quote is problemmatic - not least in terms of the ecclesiology we general espouse

2. given that most churches recognise a gap between the heavenly and their local reality, praying the Lord's prayer is asking God to close the gap in the direction of the heavenly / spiritual reality

3. missionally, I would interpret this as meaning that any given local gathering should be less homogenous than its local neighbourhood... as bearing witness to the final-eschatalogical-heavebly-spiritual reality. ie. a local gathering that is more homogenous than its local neighbourhood is bearing witness to something other than God's future and can hardly be credited with being 'missional'??

Roger said...

Thanks Chris

I like you point about eschatology. So that if this was inform practice I guess you might say that a church like ours may be in danger of under-realising eschatology if it chose to run separate English speaking youth groups on the basis of cultural background only?


Roger said...

Anonymous -any chance you could say who you are before I respond?

Roger said...


Thanks for making contact. I would prefer to leave the discussion of JW's ecclesiology for another day.

The other observations you make about the Lord's prayer and the makeup of the church in any given community, highlight some of other issues we need to grapple with-thanks. I will make this the subject of my next post.