Ecclesiology is the study of the church. It’s sub-discipline of theology that nearly all of us practice, even those who do not believe, because, among the other questions asked, one is: “What is the church supposed to do?”
For example, there are local churches that advocate for health care reform, those who are against it, and others that remain silent (please forgive me for not finding a local link to congregations against–I know, from experience, that you are around, I just couldn’t find a local “con” organization of churches on the web.)
Should the church provide adoption services, health care, housing, food? Or should the church “keep it spiritual?”
Should we only “preach to the choir,” or to others that may not be listening for our message?
Some people see church through a consumerist lens; it is where they go to “get” God, or something connected to God. The church is the dispenser of religious goods and services.
Others see her as a people–more or less diverse–on a mission, broadly or narrowly defined.
Some want her to take care of her buildings, and not much more.
Depending on the person, a church might get compared to a club, a hospital, or a museum.
It’s important to think about ecclesiology, because until we know who we are and what we’re to be about, we’ll never be able to be about it! Even the critics of the church ought to know a bit of ecclesiology, so that they might evaluate her consistently.
But there is little consensus as to what we are to be “about”. Speaking from experience, I have heard criticism for being too political, and for not being political enough; too spiritual, and not spiritual enough; too diverse and not diverse enough. In any one congregation, there are as many ideas as to what that congregation should be as there are people.
I’ve argued before, and I’ll argue again, that the reason for so many empty church buildings is bad ecclesiology. In absence of a true reason for existence, many congregations make mere existence their sole reason to keep going. Once any organization begins to exist only for itself, it starts to die. This is doubly true a church, because it is such a betrayal of its founding values.
What do you believe the church is supposed to do?
My answer–to get you all started–is short: to re-enact the life of Jesus, in the way of Jesus.
You are invited to leave yours in the comments, whether you consider yourself part of the church or not. Just play nice, please.