Only a theologian would come up with such a New Year’s Resolution.
Or a first class nerd.
Wait a minute, those are actually the same…
But at any rate, this is actually the title of today’s post in one of the blogs I follow (or attempt to) by evangelical scholar Ben Witherington (http://www.patheos.com). The point of Dr. Witherington’s post is that we need better ecclesiology in that we need less hot-dogging and more leadership and accountability above the local church level, citing the case of Bishop Eddie Long (for that story follow the link http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/05/us/eddie-long-beleaguered-church-leader-to-stop-preaching.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha23 )
He raises some good points to consider.
But it got me to thinking in more general terms: what would it mean to have “better ecclesiology” in 2012? Or to put it another way, what would it mean to have healthier church life in 2012? Or to put it in yet another way, what would it mean to experience healthier face-to-face community in Jesus in 2012?
I encourage you to answer that question for yourself – and certainly to ask the question if such a question isn’t begging the question to begin with, considering the opportunities for cyber interactions through social networks like Facebook.
Here are some of my thoughts towards an answer…
A better ecclesiology is focused on more robust and more healthy personal interactions, both spontaneous and planned, with people all over the board when it comes to where they are with Jesus.
Less event dependent.
More free. More flowing. More mutual exchange – because all of us not only have insights to share but also to receive; and sometimes the most meaningful insights will come to us from people not just outside of our box but seemingly from another planet. Yes, as the New Testament bears witness on more than one occasion, the God of all truth speaks through those regarded as pagan poets. Faith is found in a heathen centurion while a synagogue of the faithful turns out to be a spiritual void.
And thinking of that, as I continue my meditations in the Gospel of Mark, I can’t help but ask which provides a picture of better ecclesiology – of healthier “church,” of the kind of face-to-face interaction characterizing the kind of robust community that Jesus loves to hang around: the synagogue where a passive religious crowd watches and evaluates – and where some of them watch to see where he will step out of line – or the phenomena of Levi’s house?
You remember Levi’s house. Jesus summons the outcast, heathen tax-collector to follow him (without even a prior stipulation on expected repentance or needed doctrinal conformity) and the next thing you know Jesus is eating dinner at Levi’s house with all of Levi’s hungry crowd of tax collector’s and sinners. The Pharisees – the self-appointed guardians of truth and tradition – are left peering and sneering through windows on this scandalous ecclesia as Jesus shouts to them that it’s not the healthy that need a doctor but the sick, and he no doubt pats the empty seat next to him because there’s a place for them too.
More Levi’s house.
More feasting and partying with people hungry for the life and love and joy that Jesus exudes everywhere; people who have given up on finding that life and love and joy in religious events and rituals long ago – but who can now find it, epiphany of epiphanies, right there at their table. And as their eyes are opened to the presence of the one who has been breaking bread with them all along, they suddenly realize that it’s not a matter of them accepting Jesus but the fact that he already has accepted them, as once again he is revealed in the breaking of the bread.
Now that would be not just better, but awesome Jesus-style ecclesiology to see unleashed in 2012 in all kinds of creative ways in unexpected places.