Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Church and Mission: A Pentecostal Perspective

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Church and Mission: A Pentecostal Perspective

Article excerpt



The stupendous growth of the Pentecostal movement, with an estimated 450 million adherents today, [1] has had a great impact on all parts of world Christianity. In the words of Harvey Cox, this movement was "a religion made to travel". [2] "The globalization of Pentecostalism" [3] and the reality of a Pentecostal upsurge have implications both for the development of theology and for the ways in which the churches worldwide do mission across cultural and geographical boundaries. The Pentecostal movement has a considerable diversity, and it is certainly hard to define what we mean by "Pentecostal". The term "Pentecostal" (not "classical Pentecostal") can refer to a variety of movements scattered throughout the world. My background is from the largest Pentecostal local congregation in the world, Yoido Full Gospel Church (Assemblies of God). So this paper is an attempt to provide a Pentecostal perspective on the nature and purpose of the church and its mission. This paper does not intend to exhaust Pentecostal ec clesiologies or views of mission. I will focus on some essential features of the nature and purpose of the church with the themes of the triune God and his kingdom, and then reflect on their implications for the contemporary mission of the church, especially the Pentecostal churches.

Church as the image of the triune God

The church is an assembly of the people who confess faith in Jesus Christ. The church is neither a building nor an organization. It constitutes a community of people called and redeemed by the triune God. So the doctrine of the church should proceed with a reflection on the, being of God. The God who calls the church into being and gives her mission is the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The church is the body of Christ whose members are called and brought into the ecclesial community by Christ through the Holy Spirit. The church, as an eschatological trinitarian fellowship, is a communion in God - a people of God, the body of Christ and thus a communion in the Holy Spirit. [4] The very fact that God revealed himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has profound implications for our understanding of the being and purpose of the church. The church is called to participate in the work of the triune God and to be a model of community, which bears the image of the triune God.

An ecclesiology of communion

There is a danger when the church is not grounded in the being of the triune God but more in the imperial or capitalist model, or in the secular managerial model of our pragmatic society. The integrity of a trinitarian theology can be brought to bear on the integral base of an ecclesiology of communion. [5] The Christian community should continue to reflect on the being of God. The theological insight of the doctrine of the Trinity has not been fully extended into ecclesiology. The being of God is not a blank unity but a being in communion. [6] The central tenet of the trinitarian mode is that of shared being: the persons do not simply enter into relationship with one another, but are constituted by one another in the relationship. [7] Father, Son, and Spirit are part of the one ontological dynamic. This mode of being, which may be called koinonia, suggests how the church, which is created, purchased, and led by the God of trinity, must ground her ecclesiology and ministry in the theology of communion. Howeve r, for much of our history the church has been an institution rather than a communion.

The one true God of Christianity is a relational being, the eternal communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The document of the World Council of Churches, The Nature and Purpose of the Church, [8] makes it clear that the church is called to partake in God's own life, whose innermost being is communion. Paul Negrut elaborates this as follows:

In God, unity and diversity are ontologically constitutive and therefore secure. …

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