In the meantime, I'll leave you with a post of some thoughts I've been having about our identity as the people of God and some interesting things that others have said recently along those lines.
From Kyle Potter:
It's not a question of mere semantics. The language we use derives from and contributes to particular values. So let's stop having Church. Let's stop going to Church. Let's be the Church, the People of God.
I think that to the extent that we have lost sight of our identity as the people of God, we lost sight of our mission. If our identity, first and foremost, is our particular denomination or church and our role or position there, we have become fractured from our identity as the people of God.
This causes the splintering we have within the body and has greatly hindered our ability to truly value one another and work together. All of our attempts at ecumenicalism will be fruitless if we don't clearly see ourselves and our brothers as the people of God with a common mission.
Well-stated thoughts from Van S:
You are church before you do church...
If this is true, then why does modern church planting amount to “service starting?” This is putting the cart before the horse, ecclesiology before missiology. We decide how we are going to “do” church before we have built missional relationships. Putting missiology first changes how we think of ourselves as the church.
More than the type of gatherings we assemble and structure, our effectiveness as the people of God will be determined by our living. It seems that so much of our effort has been put into shaping the structure of our gatherings. I believe it's time to shift the focus to the effectiveness of our mission.
An excellent quote from John Frye from the comments on Scot McKnight's blog:
The followers of Jesus had a story that spanned millennia; it told how powers (ruthless and otherwise) had come and gone, yet the “people of God’ were still around. Jesus was the grand climax of the story and, raised from the dead, now reigns as “Lord of Lords.”
They did not spread their “story” by power or by might or by creeds or doctinal statements or by votes or petitions. They spread their story BY THE WAY THEY LIVED. “Anyone who claims to live in him must WALK as Jesus WALKED.”
Postmodern visions of the church are not going to be built by “conversations” as good as they are; nor by deconstructing the modern church as culturally compromised as it is; nor by innovative expressions of “church.”
It's almost as if we've been off in a corner perfecting a prototype factory, neglecting the reality that we've not produced the desired product, but simply tweaked and retweaked the assembly line.
If we see ourselves as the people of God, Monday through Saturday, at home, work, and play, then we will no longer isolate ministry to the things that happen in church settings. The way we live becomes our ministry.
From an excellent post by Michael Kruse in which he explains how settling into our denominational "homes" has been contrary to the journey that God intended for us:
Jesus calls transformers into a journey to transform every realm. He sends us out into the world to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth with his presence. Some of Jesus’ most powerful metaphors concerning mission deal with the dispersion of substances so that the mission might be realized. Salt to preserve food and add taste. Yeast to leaven bread. Seeds to grow crops. The mission of the Church is to disperse and bring every realm under the loving Lordship of Christ. Realm does not just mean geographic regions. It also means social institutions and varied human relationships. Jesus strategy is the dispersion of his people into every realm so that each realm and person may be transformed into extensions of God’s love and justice.
And a clear description from Alexander Hamilton on how to go about living the gospel, being the church, the people of God:
By contrast the incarnational approach to mission is refreshingly simple. It requires us to live amongst the people in our communities, love them, share the good news of the kingdom both in action and in speech and then as people become followers of Christ to form up indigenous communities of faith that reflect the specific context. This requires no great resources or buildings, no slick marketing plans and no highly talented people. In incarnational mission the gatherings exist to support the believers as they move out in mission rather than being seen as the place to bring people to. While attractional churches will continue to dominate the landscape of the Christian world, I strongly believe that hope for the future lies increasingly with an incarnational approach to mission that takes both gospel and context seriously and sends Christians out as missionaries rather than calling pagans to come and attend church.
The question should no longer be "where do you go to church?" but, "are you being the church, whenever and wherever you are?"
Being the people of God is who we are. Everything we do flows out of our understanding of that identity.