Urban Theology 16: an alternative ekklesia

It’s past time I finished up this series on David Smith’s book, Seeking a City with Foundations: theology for an urban world.

Earlier, Smith talked of the NT ekklesia as a counter-cultural community within a Graeco-Roman empire. To close he asks what sort of ekklesia might demonstrate an alternative model of being within a context of economic globalisation. He suggests:

1)      It will be missional. But not an old sense of urban mission – focused on narrow segments of society like the poor. But holistic,

“while ministry among the poor remains a priority, the most urgent and challenging tasks may be to bring the message of the kingdom of God to those people whose lives are lived in close proximity to the idolatrous systems we described earlier.” 234

2)      New forms of Christian ekklesia will be needed to connect with the social and cultural realities of our world. Old assumptions of cultural stability no longer apply. One example he gives is this,

“the networked, mobile ‘liquid’ nature of life in the postmodern city creates new patterns of behaviour and relationships so placing issues concerning the structure of the church, the nature of its leadership, and patterns of nurture of fellowship firmly on the agenda.” 235

3)      The emerging ekklesia will be catholic – in the sense that the exponential growth of world Christianity is a global movement that already reflects the eschatological hope of Revelation the people from every tribe and nation will worship the Lamb of God.

Many people, looking at the state of the world, its inequality, its violence, its urban crises, and its looming environmental crisis, are tempted to despair. Smith longs for Christians with a deeply theocentric vision that transcends a materialist, secular worldview.

 “Can we hope that a church which, for the first time in two thousand years is truly ecumenical in its geographical extent, can discover a catholic unity which will give credibility to its challenge of the idols of our time and would offer the world empirical evidence that the gospel can bring to birth a human family united in love and the practice of justice?” 236

Good question. Can we?

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