Towards A Gospel Based Ecclesiology

stone-walls-natural-stone-wall-design-ideas-6-580x435The word ‘Ecclesiology’ comes from two Greek words meaning “assembly” and “word,” and combining them to mean, “the study of the church.” At least that’s the most common definition.  I’d suggest that it might be better understood by combining the words “assembly” and “word” (logos) so that the meaning would be significantly changed from “the study of the church” to “the assembling logos” (Word) (Jesus)

This definition would take ecclesiology out from under ‘theology’ proper, and out of the hands of professional theologians and place it squarely under Jesus and His Gospel.  If we define ‘ecclesiology’ in this way, then it no longer is a ‘study’ about how to do church right, but an endeavor towards a better understanding of how to gather around Christ and His Gospel.  More simply put, we let the person, message, and work of Christ determine how, why, and for what purpose his followers gather.

Again, it would be an ecclesiology not based on systematically strung together ideologies about the ’study of church’ but the fleshing out of the Gospel demonstrated by the occasional gathering and persistent scattering of God’s people.

What if we broke down the gospel message into its core components and used those components as qualifiers for being the Church?

What if “The Marks of a True Church,” were not rooted in doctrinal statements, denominational distinctives, creeds, worship styles, forced systematic theologies, liturgies, or how the local church should be governed, but instead rooted or based on; The Character and Nature of God, His Son, His Kingdom, His Peace, His Grace, His Glory, His Salvation, and other key aspects of the Gospel?

I am not suggesting a simple redefinition of terms, but a completely new way of understanding what church is.  If our ecclesiology was based on the Gospel instead of our theologies, would it completely upend the way we gather, what we do when gathered, and who we are as a gathered people?

What do you think?

One thought on “Towards A Gospel Based Ecclesiology

  1. Jonathan McGuire says:

    You really can’t define a term like this with an -ology ending as anything by other than “the study of” the term that comes before the -ology.

    In your proposal, “the study of” has been taken out entirely. That’s pretty much a non-starter.

    However, when you get past that and into the gospel v. theology part, I think you’re on to something. In essence, what you’re arguing is, “can we please get back to foundational truths and jettison all these centuries worth of construction of generation upon generation of human reasoning?”

    I agree, but with the caveat: the construction you’re wanting to void is rooted in the same impulse you have now. We start with something simple (The Gospel) and then we find the need to explain or relate Scripture’s terms to the present context. Not a bad thing, per se, but each time we do this, we’re building our own construction to replace an earlier construction. I would argue that your attempt to redefine “ecclesiology” is already an artificial construction.

    I say, yes, by all means, lets focus on the gospel. Let’s make sure that our understanding of the gospel is completely Biblical (and not of our own creation). Then, let’s do the same regarding all other areas of theology…because, yes, the study of the gospel is, while key and central, another -ology that we must get right.

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