Is the Church an Instrument?

Aug 22, 2019 by

By Trevin Wax, The Gospel Coalition:

In several articles (see the most recent here), I’ve been interacting with Mark Galli’s series “The Elusive Presence,” which makes the point that in our zeal for doing good things for God, our love and passion for God Himself has been eclipsed.

I resonate with this diagnosis of the malaise within evangelicalism. At our best, evangelicals constitute a renewal movement within our denominations and churches. Losing “the love we had at first”—the problem for one of the seven churches in Revelation—is something we must always guard against. Mark is right to sound the alarm that our activity for God can easily replace a vibrant relationship with God.

Where I part ways with Mark is in his broad and ill-defined understanding of the “missional church” as the culprit, as if missional thinking is an activity-generating philosophy that leaves us exhausted. Mark’s fundamental issue with the missional understanding of the church is that it makes the church an instrument for a larger cause (whether it be evangelism or social work or the vague notion that we “make the world a better place”)…

…Although … Galli is an Anglican, there’s an Anabaptist sensibility present in this conversation. Stan Hauerwas and Will Willimon’s classic, Resident Aliens, make this point from a different angle.…

…Hauerwas and Willimon believe the activist impulse of the church does not fulfill its true mission. Activists focus on the world first, with the church as instrument. The Anabaptist vision imagines the world being changed by the church being the church.

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