McKnight on Defining “Church”

Here’s what he says: It is customary for the theologians to define the Church as a gathering where the Word is preached and the Sacraments performed…. We don’t just gather to hear the Word and observe the sacraments, but we gather as a missonal community to witness to that mission and to strategize and prepare for further mission and to be formed through fellowship.

I haven’t had time to really develop any original thoughts. It’s a shame how busyness can dry up creativity.

Anyway, Scot McKnight has been blogging some really substantial stuff… several times a day! Sheesh! One particular post that caught my attention was Defining Church. Here’s what he says:

It is customary for the theologians to define the Church as a gathering where the Word is preached and the Sacraments performed. These are the two marks of the Church.

My own take on the discussion is that this isn’t enough. If Kingdom morphs into Ecclesia, then we need to add a third “mark”: a missional community. We don’t just gather to hear the Word and observe the sacraments, but we gather as a missonal community to witness to that mission and to strategize and prepare for further mission and to be formed through fellowship.

On this, see M. Volf, In Our Likeness, and S. Grenz, Renewing the Center, pp. 287-324.



I think McKnight hits something square on the head. We are not the ecclesia, the called out ones, if we are not missional. All the talk of spiritual formation and community means nothing unless it is fueling mission. We can’t read the New Testament without bumping into this. As God’s people, we are sent as Jesus is sent. Both as individuals and as a community, we are the new Temple of God, embodying God’s presence.

Sure, modern forms of evangelism are unbiblical and pretty much miss the point of God’s mission. But if we are truly an incarnational people who follow Jesus and longing to be empowered by his Spirit in the world, then we must not only set aside old methods, but also learn to embrace Jesus’ actual mission and implement his accomplishments.

This reminds me of something that Jason Evans said recently on his blog. Mission/evangelism is about “finding the redemptive potential in all things.” It’s not about a sales pitch or trying to convince someone to go to church. Rather, it’s looking for the “redemptive potential” in the person or the circumstance and then teasing it out for the greater good of the kingdom. That’s what it means to be Church.

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