I’ve been reading an interesting essay by D. Marco Funk which relates the ecclesiology of John Howard Yoder to the missional church and reflecting on this passage in particular.
The question we asked earlier, about how the Church can partner with God in his mission to the world, is not the best way to ask the missiological question, at least not if Yoder is correct. For if the Church is itself the means and the end (telos) of God’s mission in this world—namely, to reconcile all peoples, through Christ, into one body—then the question is not what must the church do to partner with God ‘out there’ in the world, but rather: to what extent is God’s reconciliation being proclaimed and actually realized in the local and global ecclesial context? This does not mean that the Church’s only task is to be the Church; at least not if this means that the Church is called to passivity. But it does mean that all of the Church’s missional activity stems from her understanding of God’s reconciling activity, which is an activity centered in the Church’s own being. Yoder is still interested in speaking about Christians, and the Church as a whole, as going ‘out there’ to invite people into this new reality, but there is a tension here with some forms of Missional Church thought insofar as the locus of God’s activity is thought to be somewhere other than the reconciled fellowship. For Yoder, this is somewhat nonsensical precisely because the locus of God’s activity is to be seen in Jesus Christ who was, in his own broken body on the cross, reconciling two enemy peoples into one new humanity. In which case, the Church is itself the entranceway into participation in God’s activity and also the realization of God’s reconciling activity begun in Christ and fulfilled in the eschaton. The Church was, is now, and will ultimately be, the locus of God’s saving activity in our world. This must be the case if Barth and Yoder are correct about the centrality, for theology, of God’s self-revelation in his Word, Jesus Christ the Incarnate Son of God.
In other worlds, although the missional church rightly see mission in terms of the Missio Dei, and as movement oriented, if we think of leaving the church behind in some sort of individualistic fashion we hae missed something essential about the nature of mission, which is, reconciliation in Christ.