These three nouns are used by Lesslie Newbigin to describe the church, particularly at the congregational level, in its relationship to its surrounding culture (The Gospel in a Pluralist Society [Eerdmans, 1989], p. 233). It is an inspiring and challenging vision.  

Think of it!  Local churches that so embody the grace of Jesus in word and deed that they are an effective sign-post pointing to the truth that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.” Churches that are the instruments through which God answers our prayer for the kingdom to come and God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven. And congregations where people actually get a taste of the new heavens and new earth.

 Yes, it is exciting, uplifting, and hopeful!  And then there is the reality.  This was brought home to me Sunday after teaching an adult class at church where we talked about this beautiful vision. I could sense that many folks were stimulated by our discussion.  This is something the hearts of many of us long for.  But then one of my more thoughtful students said, “Dave, I love studying this stuff, but then I ask myself if I am ready to make the changes in my life that kind of church requires.”

 Indeed!  That is the question that all of us must face honestly. Business as usual will not lead to congregations that are the sign, instrument, and foretaste of the coming kingdom.  Like my friend, I too find it easy to get excited about the idea of a vibrant church, but I am actually much less enthusiastic about how such a church would disturb my comfort zone.

Dave Dunbar is president of Biblical Seminary.  He has been married to Sharon for 42 years.  They have four grown children and six grand children.


0 # Mahlon Smith 2012-03-23 11:46
I wonder if our current understandings of eschatology could be an example of how much we want to embrace or eschew the "Kingdom Vision" of the local church? In older eschatologies, the goal was the beatific vision, whereas in more modern day versions we aim for escape from this world. Your blog reminded me that I cannot sever my eccelesiology from eschatology. The local church stands as the narthex to that coming reality of Christ's visible, bodily return. Truly when our ecclesiology is rightfully connected to eschatology, we will yield a Christo-centric vision. Thanks Dr. Dunbar.
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0 # David Dunbar 2012-03-28 13:20

An examination of the eschatology-ecclesiology connection across the various families of the Christian church would be a challenging but interesting study. I am sure our embrace (or avoidance) of the "kingdom vision" would be surface regularly.
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