Salt, Light, and a City: Introducing Missional Ecclesiology

by Graham Hill

Wipf & Stock, 199 W. 8th Ave., Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401, 320 pages, 2012, $35.00.

—Reviewed by J.R. Woodward, co-founder, Ecclesia Network; author Creating a Missional Culture; blogger,

What does it mean to develop a missional ecclesiology by and for the whole Church, for the good of the world and the glory of God? In Salt, Light and City Graham Hill, with his committed evangelical convictions, takes us on a journey where we mine for nuggets of theological wisdom from twelve significant theologians who reside in four different streams of the Church. Hill asks us to pick up our buckets, screens, and gem dirt. As we head to the different streams, he asks us to let the water of God’s word wash through the gravel so that we might find the gemstones we need to build a robust missional ecclesiology.

He first takes us to Rome, to meet with Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), Karl Rahner, and Hans Küng. These three theological giants from the stream of the Catholic Church help us see the Church as communion, as a community of witness, and as a “participatory sign of the final and already present reign of God” (p. 30).

We then turn east to meet up with Thomas Hopko, Vigen Guroian, and John Zizioulas, who reside in the Eastern Orthodox stream of Christianity. They help us to see the Church as the fullness of God, a peculiar ethical community, and a Eucharistic relational communion with personal and cosmic significance.

As we continue the journey, we meet up with theologians from the Protestant stream. Letty Russell dialogues with us about the “church in the round,” helping us see the Church from the lens of the marginalized and excluded. Jürgen Moltmann reminds us that church should be shaped by the “eschatological, messianic mission of Christ” (p. 96), while John Webster helps us see the Church as the communion of saints.

In the final stream we find theologians from the Free Church. John Howard Yoder helps us see the Church as having an alternative narrative that shapes an alternative community with a kingdom ethic. Barry Harvey talks about the Church as “another city” with a “counter-cultural, missiological and Christ-glorifying” polis (p. 132), while Miroslav Volf helps us see how the Church as an image of the Trinity shapes her nature, practices, structure, and mission toward a participatory ecclesiology.

In the second part of the journey, Hill encourages us to shake our buckets so that we can see the precious jewels we need in order to create a richer and more robust missional ecclesiology which is “theological reflective, mission forged, Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered, Trinity-imaging, gospel-shaped, cooperative and dialogical—for the glory of Christ Jesus our Lord” (p. 274).

In a day where the “missional church” is too often understood to be the latest fad in how to do church, Hill reminds us that the missional church, understood properly, is a deep theological development that demonstrates “ecclesiology is inconceivable without a Christ-centered missiology, and vice versa” (p. 267).

As we remember the missional nature of God and read scripture with a missional hermeneutic, our understanding of what it means to be the Church in our world today will be clarified. We need more resources like this to remind us that God has a mission he is accomplishing in our world that includes the Church. We now have the privilege to join him in the renewal of all things.

Check Out these titles:

Guder, Darrell L. ed. 1998. Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Kärkkäinen, Veli-Matti. 2002. An Introduction to Ecclesiology: Ecumenical, Historical and Global Perspectives. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

Van Gelder, Craig and Dwight J. Zscheile. 2011, The Missional Church in Perspective: Mapping Trends and Shaping the Conversation. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic.

Copyright  © 2013 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). 

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