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At a recent clergy gathering, one of my colleagues announced with a tone of frustrated enthusiasm:  “We can either do church in the clubhouse or be church in the world.”   If I am being completely honest here, my personal irritation over the colleague’s unwarranted arrogance, made me want to dismiss his comment out of hand.   After all, I have been trying to help an unhealthy congregation evolve into a missional community with a focus on discipleship so this was not exactly news to me.  In addition, while essentially the truth, it seemed like a pretty crass way to introduce the conversation with a group of colleagues in a way that came across as taking us to task given the fact that said colleague’s emphasis on becoming missional is all of about 6 month’s old.  I really wanted to write both my colleague and his comment off without a second thought.  But I am forced to acknowledge that in spite of my aversion to his phraseology, I cannot entirely dismiss the reality that many congregations have fallen into the habit solely of functioning as a social gathering of like-minded individuals and patting each other on the back for our moral superiority.  That, I suppose, is what my colleague meant by “doing church in the clubhouse.”

On the other hand, I am not entirely convinced that being this thing we call church and Christ calls his body and his bride can be boiled down to a simple either/or proposition.  As I recently said to a couple who told me their first fight was over whether liturgy/worship or mission was more important. (Yes, one of them was a pastor.)   “You can’t have one without the other.”   We who are the ecclesia must understand ourselves as those who are called out of the world in order to be sent into the world.  We are called out and set apart in the waters of baptism for the specific purpose of participating in God’s mission in the world and we cannot do that without regularly gathering and sharing in the means of grace.

When we limit our life together to either what happens within the walls of our buildings or the ways in which we engage in God’s mission in the world around us, then we have failed to grasp the fullness of our life as ecclesia.  We cannot neglect any part of our ecclesial identity – those who are called to be disciples of Jesus, those who gather as a worshipping community, and a community of those who are sent into God’s world to make disciples.  To be anything less is to miss experiencing the fullness of life in Christ.


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