The 21st century North American mainline church : the call to the doctrine of ecclesiology as centered in community
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The 21st Century North American mainline church is suffering from a cultural ethos of consumerism, isolation, and individualism. These factors have perpetuated and intensified the breakdown in community that became prevalent in the mainline denominations in the latter half of the 20th century. These factors continue to be problematic to this day. The plight of and hope for the 21st Century North American Church will be examined through case studies of three reformed churches in the Middle and Upper-Mid Western states.
In order to resurrect and reform, the mainline church must again focus on God’s Great Commission, centering itself in Jesus Christ and becoming missional. The New Testament gospel of Jesus Christ has been and must always be the catalyst and the call to church and to community. This gospel lived out will compel us to be Pilgrim people sharing witness to Jesus Christ in word, thought, and deed. By embracing these tenets, focus will turn away from self, a major component of the consumerist mentality, and redirect the churches’ worship toward the true object of the faith experience, God in Jesus Christ by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.
This can be accomplished by adopting the call to community found in the writings and words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and implementing Lesslie Newbigin’s missional ecclesiology. Bonhoeffer believed that community could only be experienced through the ministries of listening, bearing, and proclaiming as well as breaking through to the cross, to community and to new life. Newbigin believed that it was time for the church to be one, one in the gospel call, to be the very presence and embodiment of Jesus Christ as the pilgrim people in journey, sharing faith and the gospel story through witness and action to all peoples in all cultures, in all generations. Newbigin expresses this through an emphasis upon community in the Holy Spirit, Christ within us, and sharing the gospel story unto all nations.