John Flett: Church and Mission at the Turn of the 20th Century

There are theo-bloggers with a much wider audience than I have. No one could confuse me with a theological trend-setter. I'm just not hip enough. But, if I have earned any theological capital with my work here at DET, if I have earned any respect as a thoughtful Christian, allow me to cash that in now. Go buy this book. Here is another juicy bit to wet your whistles.

John Flett, The Witness of God: The Trinity, Missio Dei, Karl Barth, and the Nature of Christian Community (Eerdmans, 2010): 61-2.
The issue of the relationship between the institution of the church and missions arises at the turn of the twentieth century...Churches and missionary societies were distinctive entities. Missions occurred apart from the church. While the church could not exist without worship, the same did not hold for missionary activity. A church could exist without reference to mission. Worship was an act demanded of all the faithful; mission was the exclusive responsibility of special individuals called and equipped for the task. This essential distinction produced a relationship whereby mission existed as a derivative function of a pre-existent church. This practical question merely manifested a deeper theological problem. To quote Jüngel, the "theological distortion in missionary practice" was consequent on a "theoretical gap in the doctrine of the church." Volunteer missionary societies developed because the ecclesiologies of the period proved insufficient for the missionary task. The disjunction of church from mission does not merely devalue mission with respect to the life of the community; it indicates that the church misconceives herself. She is too static, that is, not oriented to the purpose for which she exists.
P.S. I love that picture.


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