Belonging to the Church before believing in Christ.

This study explores the ways in which people connect with churches and mature in the faith. 

 By Mario Weyers

INTRODUCTION:

In this modest work I have not set out to accomplish a complete theology in regards to the growing spiritual phenomena of belonging before believing, but rather an introduction. Especially as there has been much discussion going on for some time with different perspectives on this theme servicing occasionally. In this presentation I do promote belonging before believing, rather than believing before belonging, as a more challenging perspective in regards to evangelical ministry in a post-Christendom society.  

A missionary ecclesiology explores the nature of Christian spirituality’s, as it is incarnated in the church and as it is shaped by its mission in the world. It does not pretend to explain or describe the whole spectrum of Christian ecclesiology, but focuses on a specific dimension. The attention is mainly on how the church organises and interacts with the world when mission is the central focus. 

With the final stages of the modern period the power of hegemonic ideologies is coming to an end as people identify less with grand ideologies and more with postmodern subcultures related to technology and social and economic networks of different kinds. The post-Christendom phase has begun and is radically challenging Christendom notions of ministry.  

We have to come to a contextual understanding that among post-Christians the familiarity with Christian concepts will fade as the decline of Christendom has meant that Christianity has been losing its favourable position as a lingua franca, only to be understood in the long run, by those proclaiming Christ from personal experience. It is therefore important that the church will anticipate longer journeys towards faith and not move on to disciple new members too quickly.  Post-Christendom evangelization will consequently take longer, start further back and move more slowly. 

In the context of post-Christendom, knowledge of Christianity is rather limited and people first and for most need to come to an understanding of what Christianity entails. For those seekers, exploratory participation at first is safer than making a definite commitment. 

Postmodern society is also suspicious of institutions and eager to find whether Christian beliefs also work in practice and not only in theory. Therefore I find that belonging before believing is very much necessary for seekers to test whether Christians live out in their communities what they claim to be true? 

I do believe therefore that the New Testament does not prescribe only one institutional form for the church. Ecclesiology can therefore assume many forms and that post Christian society need a new incarnation of the church, therefore a new missionary ecclesiology to help sceptical post-Christian seekers take a closer step to faith in Christ. 

Mario Weyers, New Zealand, 2016. 


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