A Reflection on ‘The Mission of Church’

I was asked to write a reflection on the mission of the Church. What follows is a rough-finished draft. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts and/or dis/agreements on it.
The Mission of the Church Is To Be Consumed
Joshua Case
Geneva, Switzerland
November 2007
What is the mission of the church? Depending on who you ask and where they live, the Church’s mission seems to change as often as the context of its practice. When I look around the global church in this post-colonial age, the sorts, colors and practices of Christ around the world seem to be as distinct and diverse as the communities into which they are incarnated. At the outset it must be stated…this is a GOOD THING.
A broad view of the globe would allow one to see the Spirit of God and the agency of man working together to define and to redefine the work of the Church in this age and in these contexts from every age before. And yet somehow, despite the emergence of the church over time, we find it increasingly said of the church North and West: “you are not relevant to us here” or, “my how few people fill the Cathedrals, isn’t ‘the church’ in decline?”
The definition and redefinition of the Church’s mission have led many to ask and to invite people to think about the church on the other side. Fresh expressions of the church try to think and become the ‘outside the box’ church all the while many models of church no longer call themselves ‘church’ but rather ‘missional communities.’ In some deeply innovational sense, this is the way the younger evangelicals of the Church have sought in the North and West to combat Her decline and ensure that converts continue to be won while the Church more relevantly engages with culture. However, when it comes to mission and evangelism, relevancy is not the issue.
What if the church in her present form has had her day? What if She who at one point was the ultimate Guide of the people, leading them on the way to light and into the liturgies of hope through the daily formation of prayer and services, is finished? What if She like Christ has finished her season of physical ministry in Cathedrals and parishes and is now facing her trial and immanent execution? How will the Church respond? Will She like Christ bear the cross that is in front of her in prayer and waiting or will she flee? Will the Church meet with her closest friends give them symbols to remember her by or will she quietly go away? And we must ask, what Spirit will she leave her followers to comfort them in the age to come? What message of a second coming will she gift their faithfulness and belief?
At the end of the day the Church of the last two millennia may very well be responsible for today’s consumer culture. What other institution had at its core the daily consumption of its message? What other force in the world taught salvation through formation and accessorization? As a result, the church today of the North and West faces one of the most difficult decisions of all times in concern to mission: to enter into an all out war against the consumer culture she helped to create, or to die to herself in order that she may be consumed and live on.
Today’s consumer culture says, ‘if I cannot consume you, I’ll go somewhere more convenient, I’ll find a better deal, I’ll settle for something cheaper.’ And yet the church in the North and West seem unmoved by the consumer pleas for something real. Something fresh. Something transforming. And my friends, this is not a conversation about the McDonald-ization of the Church, or the stripping away of her icons and liturgies and practices. No, this is about allowing or enabling people to enter in to the real practice of Christ in community and to be filled with the Bread of Life.
Inevitably, for the Church to re-remember its mission in the world it merely need to marinate itself in the symbol, the history, the message, the truth, and place of the Eucharist at Her heart. It is this place of ultimate consumption that She still draws people to Her.
For the mission of the church to again take its place as good news in the transformation of the world, the whole of Christianity must become consumed by its cultures. For in Her consumption, so She evangelizes.
The mission of the Church is to be consumed.
blessings…
joshua

3 thoughts on “A Reflection on ‘The Mission of Church’

  1. well played. well played. nice centering of our praxis and mission in the eucharist. and how even that act is a subversive symbol towards our consumptive culture.

  2. I’m sure you don’t mean that the Church is meant to be consumed by christians, in the sense of they going to church consume what the clergy creates for them 🙂
    Yes, the church is to be consumed by the world, in the sense that we are to serve, and that we have the living waters the world so dearly needs.

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