Ecclesiology: a dangerous lens

I don’t always verbalise it – but I watch what’s going on around me so I can learn from it. I think the right way to say it is that I “wonder” about things a lot. Anyway, I’d like to share one of these “wonderings” with you as it relates to the Kingdom of God.

I believe there was a subtle theological shift in our country that has had a tremendous impact upon us and I think this happened almost without being noticed.

I remember it now because I was preparing for ministry at the time. I was at Bible College.

Here’s my theory.

The shift away from a sound theology of the Kingdom of God occurred in Australia, I think, somewhere between 1976 and 1981. It wasn’t sudden, but that was the point when I believe it became discernible.

There were two major factors. The first was the popularity of the mega-church model and the belief that the local church was the hope of the world. There is some truth to this latter idea of course, but there is a theological shift here that I think is unhealthy.

The other major factor I discerned was the false confidence born out of the Church Growth Movement. I don’t blame the movement leaders for this and I hasten to add that there were a lot of good things to come out of this movement. But in the hands of many practitioners, it birthed a false confidence in the church itself and a subtle shift away from the Kingdom.

It had an effect on the content of the Gospel we preached as well as the ideas that inspired us as believers.

What happened was that our ecclesiology became the lens through which we understood and interpreted the Kingdom.

We didn’t reject the idea of the Kingdom – this was a subtle shift and not a dangerous doctrinal plunge into oblivion!

But the effects, slow and small at first, have now become a problem of mammoth proportions.

What were these effects? Well first there was a lowering of conversion rates across the board in our local churches. Have a look at conversion rates now – it’s not a healthy picture. Then, there was a slowing in the rate of young catalytic leaders (both men and women) signing up for fulltime mission or ministry and finally, the issue closest to my heart, a slowing or even stopping in some places, to church planting and even evangelism generally.

Now I acknowledge there were additional issues arising out of post modernity, but I still think my theory holds.

Now we find the tide turning again.

Now, everywhere I go, I am aware of concern for the Kingdom of God and with this theological shift I am praying for a return in conversion rates; in the re-mobilisation of our catalytic leaders and in church planting. 

I hope it will happen like this, but I’m concerned that it won’t because so much cultural and western philosophy has to be stripped away from our notions of the Kingdom to get ourselves anywhere near the point of renewal.

But it’s worth a fight. Let’s think through our theology of the Kingdom again. It’s time!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email